Bring­ing back Dick­er­son could be com­pli­cated

The Morning Call - - VARSITY - By Matt Breen

So, you’re telling me there’s a chance?

The Phillies kept their play­off hopes alive Tues­day night, moved past the Di­a­mond­backs, picked up a game on the Cubs, and main­tained their dis­tance from the Brew­ers with a big win over the Braves. The gaunt­let isn’t over yet, as they face a dif­fi­cult sched­ule ahead.

But they’re not dead yet.

The Phillies moved a halfgame past the Di­a­mond­backs and are a game be­hind Mil­wau­kee, and a game bet­ter than the Mets. The Cubs, who lost to the Padres on Tues­day night, are two games bet­ter than the Phillies. The Brew­ers have an easy sched­ule but lost MVP can­di­date Chris­tian Yelich for the sea­son af­ter he frac­tured his kneecap in the team’s win Tues­day night.

Fan­graphs, In­quirer re­porter Bob Brookover re­ports, gives the Phillies a 4.7% chance to reach the play­offs, which is nearly three times higher than the odds were Fri­day night in New York.

The Phillies are not yet ready to think about next sea­son, but they soon will have to, and one of the press­ing ques­tions will be what they should do with Corey Dick­er­son. Dick­er­son, who will be­come a free agent af­ter the sea­son, hit two more homers Tues­day night and has a .906 OPS in 33 games with the Phillies and has been ter­rific since they added him at the trade dead­line.

“I think we have pointed to some of the swing changes and how com­pet­i­tive he is in the bat­ter’s box. One of the things we are notic­ing is that left or right, he’s prob­a­bly got to be in the lineup right now,” man­ager Gabe Kapler said. “And if a left-handed re­liever comes into the game, we al­most feel com­fort­able and con­fi­dent in Corey.

“I know the Pi­rates were us­ing him in a pla­toon role. But cer­tainly he looks dan­ger­ous against left-han­ders and righthande­rs and per­haps has re­ally made a change for the bet­ter in his ca­reer.”

The Phillies are bet­ter with Dick­er­son on the ros­ter, but bring­ing him back in 2020 is a bit com­pli­cated. Most likely, he’ll want to play ev­ery day, and he’s played well enough in the sec­ond half that other teams should be af­ter him.

“I’ve loved it here,” Dick­er­son said. “That’s out of my con­trol, es­pe­cially watch­ing the freeagent mar­ket lately. It’s pretty crazy. I just hope I don’t get a mi­nor-league deal. No, it’s great. I’ve en­joyed my time here and I’m go­ing to do my best to fin­ish strong with th­ese guys and com­pete and have fun and be a good team­mate, and all that stuff will work out.”

Dick­er­son, who will turn 31 in May, has never been a free agent. The Phillies are un­able to of­fer him an every­day role, which could force him to go else­where. But they could make room for him on the bench in a pla­toon role.

He’s lim­ited to left field, as are An­drew McCutchen and Jay Bruce, both of whom are al­ready un­der con­tract for 2020. The Phillies owe McCutchen $40 mil­lion over the next two sea­sons, and they want that money play­ing ev­ery day.

McCutchen, who is ex­pected to be healthy for spring train­ing, started 10 games this sea­son in cen­ter, but it could be a chal­lenge for him to play there next sea­son as he turns 33 and re­turns from a torn ACL. Dick­er­son said he can play cen­ter, but the Phillies have not used him there. The start­ing out­field­ers project to be McCutchen in left, Adam Hase­ley in cen­ter, and Bryce Harper in right.

The Phillies will have a five­man bench in 2020 as ros­ters ex­pand to 26, but they value ver­sa­til­ity and it’s un­likely they would sac­ri­fice that to have two left-handed hit­ters, Bruce and Dick­er­son, who are lim­ited to left field.

Seat­tle is pay­ing for most of Bruce’s con­tract next sea­son, which could al­low the Phillies to move him this win­ter. Bruce was a great ad­di­tion af­ter ar­riv­ing in June, but he’s bat­tled in­juries and could be bet­ter suited for the Amer­i­can League. If so, the Phillies would then have room for Dick­er­son, who could be used in a pla­toon role with McCutchen and al­low the Phillies to ease McCutchen back from in­jury.

So there’s a path to hav­ing Dick­er­son on the ros­ter, but the Phillies won’t be the only team af­ter him.

“I love it. First class. Great group of guys here,” Dick­er­son said. “The city has been great. I love the fan base. Love how it’s tough to play here for the op­pos­ing team.”

Rick Kranitz said he wasn’t scared to be with­out a job in Novem­ber, but he was mad when the Phillies fired him. The for­mer Phillies pitch­ing coach is now en­joy­ing life with the first-place Braves, who have built a coach­ing staff of vet­eran coaches in­stead of one built around an­a­lyt­ics.

The Phillies fired Kranitz to pro­mote Chris Young, whom Gabe Kapler de­fended be­fore Tues­day night’s game even though, as In­quirer re­porter Scott Lauber writes, most of the team’s pitch­ers have ei­ther re­gressed or stag­nated un­der Young’s watch. “I think we’ve seen some im­prove­ments over the course of the last six weeks. That stands out to me,” Kapler said.

The Phillies have rarely let Adam Hase­ley face left-handed pitch­ing even though he had suc­cess against left­ies in the mi­nor leagues. “We are try­ing to kind of ease him into this role with some sen­si­tiv­ity and try to set up Hase for suc­cess,” Kapler said. “One of the ways to do that is to try to look for the matchups that might be es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult and give him a break in those matchups.”

Bryce Harper’s home run in the first in­ning Tues­day was his 13th this sea­son off left-handed pitch­ing, which trails Cody Bellinger’s 17 with the Dodgers for the most in base­ball among lefty hit­ters.

Since 1961, the only other left-handed bat­ter for the Phillies with more than 13 homers against left­ies is Ryan Howard, who hit 16 in 2006 and 2007 and 14 in 2008. Raul Ibanez (2009) and Chase Ut­ley (2008) both hit 13.

Harper’s homer was one of three the Phillies hit in the first in­ning, which was the first time they did that since July 6, 2009, against Cincin­nati.

MATT SLOCUM/AP

Corey Dick­er­son will be­come a free agent af­ter the sea­son. He hit two homers Tues­day night against the Braves and has a .906 OPS in 33 games with the Phillies.

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