Rockies and Rays swap Corey Dickerson and Jake McGee

Ken Rosenthal is reporting the Colorado Rockies have agreed to send outfielder Corey Dickerson and a minor league player to the Tampa Bay Rays for lefty reliever Jake McGee and a pitching prospect. If you’re a Rockies fan, I imagine your immediate response is, “Why?” And if you’re a Rays fan I imagine your immediate response is, “Sweet, another lopsided trade in our favor. Why does anyone trade with our team?” My answer to both questions is, “I don’t know.”

Corey Dickerson offers the Rays a young left-handed outfielder with four years of team control. He’ll make close to league minimum in 2016 and enter his first of three arbitration eligible seasons in 2017. Dickerson made his MLB debut in 2013, hitting .263/.319/.459 in 213 plate appearance before his breakout in 2014. That year saw him hit .312/.364/.567 in what was closer to a full season’s worth of plate appearances, 478. He was limited in 2015 due to a bout of plantar faciitis, and was only able to make 234 plate appearances in which he still hit a more than respectable .304/.333/.536.

One must always bring up the effects of playing Coors Field. Offense is inflated and Dickerson does have pretty extreme home/road splits. At home over his career (442 PA), he has hit .355/.410/.675, while on the road in his career (483 PA), he has hit just .249/.286/.410. So Tampa is definitely acquiring a lot of risk in this deal.

However, Coors Field can impact hitters when they leave too. Pitches don’t break as much in the high altitude so they look different. That has a lingering effect on a player when they travel. It’s like they’re seeing completely different kinds of pitches on the road compared to when they are at home. That takes time to adjust to. So when players leave Coors permanently, it can have a beneficial effect. They don’t have to deal with such drastic changes in pitch forms. So we can’t simply say Dickerson’s offense will be hurt outside of Coors, nor can we guess how much it will be impacted.

Jake McGee gives the Rockies a top notch lefty reliever with two years of team control remaining. He makes $4.8 million this year and will enter his fourth and final arbitration eligible season in 2017, where he should see a sizable raise. McGee has had a career 30.8 K%, which is really very good. Even better, he’s sat around 32% the last two years. He doesn’t walk guys either, as evidenced by his career 6.9% walk rate, which as also been better the last two years.

He missed a month at the start of the 2015 season after having loose bodies removed from his shoulder, but he doesn’t appear to have suffered any lasting effects with respect to his performance. He pitched in 37 innings last year with a 32.7 K%, 5.4 BB%, .196 BAA, 0.94 WHIP, 2.41 ERA, and 2.33 FIP. So clearly when he’s healthy, McGee is one of the best relievers in baseball – and I don’t mean limited to just lefty relievers.

McGee’s 32.7 K% would have tied Brett Cecil for tenth best among qualified relievers in 2015. Expand the sample size to the last three years, and Jake McGee’s 31.8 K% is 15th best out of 169 qualified relievers. In other words, McGee’s strikeout rate has been in the top 8.8% of baseball over the last three years. That’s really good.

The minor league players involved in the deal don’t change much in either team’s favor. The Rockies get the better player in RHP German Marquez. MLB Pipeline rated his fastball as plus saying it sits in the low 90’s but able to reach higher. His curveball has potential to be major league average. His change-up lags behind. His solid command gives him a change to remain in a rotation for now. But moving to Colorado has to hurt his future prospects.

The Rays get third baseman Kevin Padlo. He was drafted in the 5th round of the 2014 draft. He hit well in rookie league ball before scuffling a bit in a short stint with Colorado’s A-ball affiliate. He was 18 for the entire 2015 season and is still too far away from the majors to guess his potential right now. Tampa Bay is probably hoping something clicks in the next 5 years, which is a sound tactic even if the chances are low it works out.

Both Dickerson and McGee are very solid players. With the recent signing of OF Gerardo Parra, the Rockies did have room to trade an outfielder. Still, it’s hard to see the sense in trading four years of Dickerson for two years of McGee. Even if McGee is a better reliever than Dickerson is an outfielder, a full time position player seems more valuable to a team than a reliever who will throw maybe 60-70 innings.

Then when you consider how far off the Rockies are from not only the best teams in their division, but also the best teams likely to be in the Wild Card race, this trade makes even less sense. But the offseason isn’t over. Maybe the Rockies have more up their sleeves? Or maybe they’re just crazy.

Or I suppose they could just be bad at trades – that Troy Tulowitzki trade isn’t looking any better than it did 6 months ago…

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Contracts

About Derek Harvey

Derek Harvey is a writer The Outside Corner, a featured writer for SB Nation's Brew Crew Ball, and a staff writer for Baseball Prospectus - Milwaukee. He's taking over the world one baseball site at a time!