BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) – Corey Dickerson didn’t initially believe the news.
Tampa Bay Rays general manager Erik Neander called Dickerson late on the night of Feb. 17 to inform the five-year veteran he had been designated for assignment. That meant the Rays had 10 days to trade Dickerson, outright him to the minor leagues or release him.
“I kind of thought I was dreaming at first,” Dickerson said.
It marked quite a turn of events for a player who was the American League’s starting designated hitter in last year’s All-Star Game.
“It was tough,” Dickerson said. “It was embarrassing and the reason I say that is you have to explain to your friends and your family why it happened and what it means. Most of them don’t understand what DFA means and some of them think you’re not good enough, which is bothersome.”
The Rays wound up trading Dickerson to the Pittsburgh Pirates last week for right-handed reliever Daniel Hudson, minor league second baseman Tristan Gray and cash considerations. Dickerson joined the team Monday.
Three hours after the trade, Dickerson’s wife gave birth to a boy named Miller in their hometown of Meridian, Mississippi.
“It was one of the biggest days of my life, my family’s lives,” Dickerson said with a smile. “It was a crazy day. I got traded at 2 p.m. and our second son was born at 5 p.m.”
Dickerson is looking to playing left field for his new team.
“When the trade finally happened, I was excited,” Dickerson said. “I’m the type of person who looks at what’s next. I just like to compete. I’m a very competitive person, so I’m always looking to turn the page quickly.”
Dickerson had a .282 batting average, 27 home runs and 62 RBIs in 150 games last year while making his first All-Star Game appearance. The 28-year-old is a .282 career hitter with 90 homers.
The Rays traded Dickerson primarily because they wanted to rid themselves of his $5.9 million salary. Yet they wound up trading him to a team that also cut payroll over the winter by dealing 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants and ace right-hander Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros.
“We thought a lot of teams would be interested from the get-go after I got DFA’d,” Dickerson said. “When my agent talked to GMs, though, it was hard to pinpoint exactly who might be interested. There were a lot of things to consider like money, teams’ payrolls, you’re already into spring training. There were a lot of variables, but it all turned out for the best.”
The Pirates had a hole in their outfield following the trade of McCutchen. They are hopeful Dickerson can help fill the void left by the five-time All-Star.
“It makes that starting lineup a better lineup,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It makes our bench a better bench, whatever five are on the bench that day. There’s more depth. We added another level of depth to our team as well.”