With the acquisition of Omar Narvaez, the Milwaukee Brewers found the catcher they would use to team with Manny Pina. That was one need addressed, but there are several more to go. In fact the Brewers must deal with third base as they are projected to have the worst production in baseball from that position, starting pitching, probably the bullpen, and some combination of first base and corner outfield.
With discussions about Ryan Braun having greater defensive versatility, it might be easier to think about Braun at first base while finding a strong OPS guy from the left side to play a corner outfield spot.
David Stearns didn't rule out a little first base for Narváez. Also said Brewers "have had ongoing discussions with Ryan Braun about defensive versatility."— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) December 5, 2019
Quite possibly the best player out there that fits the description is Corey Dickerson (career OPS = .832, 2019 OPS = .906). That line illustrates why the Brewers should be in on Dickerson, but more specifically here is why:
Fantastic Aptitude for Hitting a Baseball
Corey Dickerson is a professional hitter that opposing pitchers do not want to face. However there was concern after he left Colorado for Tampa that his offensive prowess was related to Coors Field. In fact the concerns were justified if you look at the career splits from 2013-2015 when he played for the Rockies. At Coors he slashed .355/.410/.675, but slashed just .249/.286/.410 away from Coors Field. In his first year with Tampa in 2016, those concerns seemed justified as he slashed .245/.293/.469.
Evidently there was an adjustment period for him of one year, because Dickerson started hitting again in 2017. In that season he produced a .282/.325/.490 slash line while blasting 27 home runs. That season resulted in Tampa trading him to Pittsburgh for Daniel Hudson (yes, the guy who got the final out of the 2019 World Series) who had been just be okay the previous season and Tristan Gray (35+ FV according to Fangraphs). He played well in Pittsburgh slashing .300/.330/.474.
In 2019 with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, he slashed .304/.341/.565 in 260 plate appearances resulting in a wRC+ of 127. It was a season in which he battled injury, but he was still good nonetheless.
Brewers are Suddenly Unbalanced from the Left Side
The Brewers lost much of their left handed thump from the lineup when Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas signed elsewhere. Obviously there is the presence of Christian Yelich in the lineup everyday. The signing of Narvaez certainly alleviates things a bit from that standpoint, but the addition of another left handed hitter with the ability of Dickerson would be huge for Milwaukee.
Looking at Dickerson’s splits against left handed and right handed pitching, Dickerson is much better against right handed pitching. His career slash against left handers is .272/.310/.409 with a 90 wRC+. His slash against right handers however is fantastic, .290/.333/.533 with a 125 wRC+.
Platooning with Ryan Braun in left field (Braun could play first base on days a right handed pitcher is on the mound and he is not resting) would be an option to get his bat in the lineup in the most efficient way possible. In fact if we went by the numbers from 2019 and had a strict platoon between Dickerson and Braun in left field, the numbers would be amazing. The Braun-Dickerson strict platoon in left field would result in a .302/.365/.581/.946 slash. That is a very productive offensive player.
Obviously a strict platoon would not occur in absolute form, but the exercise illustrates the magnitude of Dickerson’s presence on this Brewers’ team. Even if Dickerson played virtually everyday, he could also bring a balance to a lineup that would require opposing teams to game plan around, especially since the three batter minimum is set to take effect in 2020.
Underrated Players Often Come with Attractive Price Tags
Corey Dickerson is the definition of an underrated player. He even has a Gold Glove from 2018 on his mantle, although I would not place a great deal of credence on that since he grades as a below average defender most years. Nonetheless, Dickerson gets the job done at the plate. With his kind of production from the left side, he should be commanding a multi-year deal with more substantial numbers attached than he is apt to get. MLBTradeRumors.com predicts his value at 2 years, $15 million. That seems like good value. Even though the market is producing numbers beyond MLBTradeRumors.com’s predictions on virtually every contract signed to this point (very different than what has been the case for the past couple of seasons), even 2 years, $18 million is a value for a guy who will produce a wRC+ between 115 and 127.
Corey Dickerson can flat out hit. He will be a valuable piece for whatever team signs him. Based on his likely price tag along with the value he adds with the bat from the left side, he is just the type of player David Stearns should target.
Baseball statistics courtesy of Fangraphs