Dickerson gives Rays flexibility for more

Power bat joins crowded outfield; could signing Desmond be next?

January 29th, 2016

Can't wait to see Corey Dickerson bang away for a full season at Tropicana Field.

Let's assume Dickerson got all of his health issues out of the way last summer in Denver. It sure will be fun to see what he can do in 150-plus games for the Rays, swapping one quirky home field for another.

This is a .299 career hitter with pop. Dickerson may not have the resume of former Rockies teammate Carlos Gonzalez, but he should be a godsend for a Tampa Bay team that was 14th in the American League in scoring last year.

We knew the Rockies were going to trade an outfielder, right? Jeff Bridich, the second-year GM, denied the obvious after signing Gerardo Parra to a three-year contract, but it was clear Colorado was going to use its outfield surplus to acquire pitching.

The Rockies did that by landing lefty reliever Jake McGee. He's not the young arm they covet, but maybe Bridich can put him in a package next July -- or sooner -- to land that starter-in-waiting. McGee is expected to close for Colorado, and every contender can use another arm for the stretch run.

Dickerson, likely to start on one side or the other of center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, figures to be the third newcomer in the Rays' Opening Day lineup.

At least for now, Brad Miller is penciled in at shortstop, Logan Morrison as the designated hitter. That's significant change for Kevin Cash's team. But is there more change ahead?

Seems like there's another move or two coming, maybe even a series of them that ends with the almost unthinkable: the signing of Ian Desmond, at the cost of the 13th pick in the Draft next June.

More: 2016 Draft order

This isn't how the Rays normally do business. But imagine if they could get 20-plus home runs from Desmond, a Florida native who would love to re-establish his value on a short contract with Tampa Bay. Life would be much simpler for Evan Longoria, and Chris Archer just might get to experience the excitement of an October start.

This is the time of the year for dreamers, and it seems that Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman is hoping to use the 2016 season for more than just exploring potential stadium sites in Tampa.

Before adding Dickerson, the Rays seemed set with Desmond Jennings (seemingly healthy again after playing only 28 games last season) and Steven Souza Jr. on the outfield corners. Both are X factors with high ceilings and low floors. The cast behind them includes Brandon Guyer, Mikie Mahtook, recently signed Steve Pearce (who may get most of his at-bats platooning with first baseman James Loney) and Minor League signee Jaff Decker.

That's a lot of outfielders.

But the Rays might be able to move one of them -- the 29-year-old Jennings, most likely -- to the White Sox or Rangers for an inexpensive reliever. They're saving about $4 million moving McGee to the Rockies. Jennings is set to earn $3.3 million.

As you may have heard, Tampa Bay has to watch the budget like few other teams. The Rays seem to be heading toward a $65 million payroll, down about $10 million from last April. Maybe they can find the flexibility to make a Desmond deal work.

Desmond has been a consideration for the White Sox, as well as the Rays. But the Sox largely torched their 2015 Draft beyond first-rounder Carson Fulmer, giving up the second- and third-round picks to sign David Robertson and Adam LaRoche and trading fourth-rounder Zack Erwin (a left-hander from Clemson) to the Athletics for Brett Lawrie.

While the White Sox's first-round pick is protected, would Rick Hahn give up the 28th overall to take a shot at Desmond (or Dexter Fowler, for that matter)? Seems unlikely to me.

But the Rays have made no especially bold moves since Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon departed after the 2014 season. It would hurt to give up a first-round pick for Desmond, but there's a chance they could get it back when Desmond leaves.

Hot Stove Tracker: Free Agents & Trades

Nothing's easier than spending a team's money, sure. But a Desmond-to-the-Rays deal makes sense.

If Tampa Bay does sign Desmond, it won't have a daily role for Miller. He could be a nice fit for the White Sox, who have Tyler Saladino in line to keep shortstop warm for top prospect Tim Anderson.

Oh, and the Rays still have starting pitching to trade.

February's coming fast, but there's plenty of time left for teams to get better.