Spring training is upon us — a time to usually be excited about Tigers baseball returning.
Yet, things are different this season because of the club’s decision to get younger, cheaper and subsequently, worse as a major league ballclub.
Gone are Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, and in are Leonys Martin, Mike Fiers and Ronny Rodriguez. Not exactly names to get excited about in the spring.
The Tigers are doomed to hit rock bottom in 2018, and the club’s front office brass led by general manager Al Avila isn’t going to apologize for it.
Fans are forced to trust that the rebuilding process will ultimately lead to fruitful results at the major league level come 2020 or 2021 and beyond.
Until then, fans have to hope that top prospects like consensus No. 1 Detroit farmhand Franklin Perez, acquired in the Verlander trade with the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros, continue to develop into impactful major leaguers.
However, that’s not going to cut the mustard seed for many impatient Detroit fans that expect more instant gratification.
And as exciting as it would be to see Michael Fulmer compete for the American League Cy Young Award and Miguel Cabrera bounce back from a hugely disappointing 2017 campaign, neither outcome would do the trick for despondent Tigers fans.
Bringing in impactful new blood — at least one player that was both an All-Star and wasn’t a member of the Tigers last season — is the only thing that would do the trick.
Enter left fielder/designated hitter Corey Dickerson, an All-Star with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017 who was designated for assignment Saturday. With Dickerson being DFA’d, the Rays have 10 days from Saturday to trade him or release him and seven days from Saturday to place him on waivers.
If the Tigers were to trade for him or claim him during the DFA period, it means that they would be on the hook for his entire $5.95 million salary for 2018.
If the Rays decide to release him after the 10-day period passes, it means that interested clubs could possibly sign him to a cheaper contract.
Detroit fans have run rampant with the idea that he’d be a perfect pick-up for the Tigers.
The left-handed slugger did hit 27 bombs last season and 24 the year before, and chicks and dudes alike dig the long ball.
Also, throughout his major league career, every time he’s played in north of 130 games in a season he’s slugged at least 24 home runs.
However, it’s time to pump the brakes on the possibility of Dickerson joining the Tigers.
The first reason why: The organization doesn’t have a clear-cut need for him at the moment.
The Tigers’ outfield is already set with Mikie Mahtook in left field, Martin in center field and Nicholas Castellanos in right field. While that isn’t the sexiest trio of outfielders, the Tigers appear to be content with running those three out there come Opening Day.
And from all reports, Victor Martinez, despite his irregular heartbeat issue, will be ready for the start of the regular season, and will be Detroit’s everyday designated hitter.
While Dickerson would be a significant upgrade over Martinez based on V-Mart’s subpar campaign at the plate in ‘17 (a .697 on-base plus slugging percentage in 107 games), the Tigers aren’t in the market for upgrades.
Remember, they don’t care about winning this upcoming season. They’d rather lose 90-100 games, and garner the No. 1 overall pick in back-to-back amateur drafts.
Heck, if V-Mart, with his expiring contract, has a productive first half to the season, he’ll likely be dealt for young talent to further revamp the club’s farm system.
Secondly, based on the Tigers’ moves this offseason, they don’t seem to be in a hurry to add salary to their Opening Day roster.
The richest contract they gave out this offseason was a one-year, $6M deal for 32-year-old right-handed pitcher Mike Fiers.
Avila & Co. were willing to give that contract to Fiers only because they knew the club’s rotation was in dire need of a veteran arm that could chew up some innings while the club’s farmhands continue to develop.
There’s no such dire need for the Tigers in the outfield or at DH.
Last but not least, Dickerson’s 2017 season wasn’t as great as advertised.
After recording a .903 OPS prior to the All-Star break, his second-half OPS was below average (.690).
To further exemplify how poor Dickerson’s second half was, V-Mart, albeit in 28 less games, finished with a higher OPS in the second half (.714).
Also, since Dickerson’s second season in the bigs, he’s been worth two Wins Above Replacement on average, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
At 28 years old and in the prime of his career, Dickerson should be expected to be about a two-WAR player once again in 2018.
What does all this mean, though?
It’s indicative of the fact that Dickerson is an average full-time position player.
He’s not an All-Star-caliber player on a yearly basis.
And with the Tigers entering a multi-year rebuild, he doesn’t fit into the club’s plans for 2018.
Sorry, Tigers fans, but Dickerson won’t be donning the “Old English D” anytime soon.