Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that multiple contending teams have been showing interest in Pirates outfielder Melky Cabrera. Rosenthal says that the Pirates’ preference is to trade Corey Dickerson to “reduce their surplus of outfielders.”
Both Cabrera and Dickerson are free agents at the end of the season. Cabrera is making $1.15 M this year, while Dickerson is making $8.5 M. There would be obvious financial benefits to dealing Dickerson over Cabrera. As for value, Cabrera has much more right now.
Cabrera is currently hitting for a .335/.375/.462 line in 173 at-bats. Meanwhile, Dickerson has a .176/.300/.412 line in just 17 at-bats this season, and has spent the majority of the year on the disabled list. He returned this weekend, but has yet to build up much value, beyond what he showed last year.
Cabrera is currently on pace for a 2.1 fWAR season. Dickerson has been around a 2.6 WAR the last two years. If you assume $8 M trade value per WAR, then Cabrera has $6.5 M in surplus trade value for the remainder of the year, while Dickerson has $5.1 M in value.
That’s not a huge difference in terms of the type of prospects you’d receive, with the chance for a Grade B prospect if you have enough interest from contending teams. In that comparison, you can see why it would be better to trade Dickerson, since you get a similar return, and you save money.
This would require that a team believes Dickerson can return to his production from the previous two years. It also requires that another team would take on more salary with Dickerson while getting around the same expected production.
The truth is that the Pirates should be open to trading both players at this point. They can trade Cabrera now, give extra playing time to Dickerson to let him regain value, and then trade him at the deadline.
The team is currently 30-34, with only three other NL teams having a worse winning percentage. They’re currently without three of their top five starting pitchers, with the other two struggling over the last month. They’ve seen injuries to their bullpen as well, along with expected key performers struggling.
At this point their hope is to stay around .500 until everyone is healthy, and then try to surge in the standings. The problem is that they might not have enough time, and might have too much ground to make up by the time the majority of their starters are healthy.
Their outfield next year is full with Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, and Bryan Reynolds, along with Jason Martin in the wings. They could trade Dickerson and Cabrera, and still have a full outfield this year, which would be the same as their expected outfield for next year.
I’d get into the subject of how they probably need to trade more than just Cabrera and Dickerson, and how Marte and Polanco might even need to be considered, but that’s a topic for a different article.