The Pirates might be welcoming Corey Dickerson back to their big-league club soon. His return will likely force the club into making some tough decisions, notably as the return pertains to one Bryan Reynolds.
Dickerson is traveling with the team for their upcoming 10-game road trip, and has reported being pain-free in the shoulder that has kept him on the shelf after playing just four games in 2019. In nine games with the team's Triple-A affiliate Indianapolis Indians, Dickerson batted .182 across 33 plate appearances, striking out eight times.
Though the results seem milquetoast at best, Dickerson was able to get his feet wet in the field and see live pitches. This in and of itself is the primary goal of any rehab assignment. So, in that sense, mission accomplished.
The next mission for the club will be to figure out how the team's roster will be reshuffled upon his return. With eight relievers on the 25-man roster as of this writing, the easy answer is seemingly to send an arm down to bring the team back in possession of a five-man position player bench. Alex McRae, Clay Holmes or Richard Rodriguez are seemingly solid options to head back to Indy.
Should the club feel as if keeping an extra arm in the bullpen is preferable, Jose Osuna might get tabbed for an option. Doing so would require Colin Moran to slide in as the primary backup first baseman. Josh Bell has been a workhorse this season, getting his first day off for the year just this past week, but if Clint Hurdle feels that a more regular spate of off days would keep Bell fresh throughout the season, Moran will be counted on to slide from one corner to the other.
The true dilemma comes with the crowded outfield picture created upon the Gold Glove winner's return. Reynolds has been the club's second best hitter by Fangraphs' version of WAR (Wins Above Replacement), totaling 1.4 on the season. He's done so chiefly on the back of a .340 batting average to go along with a stout .404 on-base percentage. He has looked exceptional at the plate and on the field.
Yet so has 34 year-old Melky Cabrera, who has posted the fourth-best fWAR on the club with 0.7. Always a patient presence, Cabrera has continued to be just that for the Pirates, striking out just 11.7 percent of the time while batting .335. He has provided fantastic value having signed for just $1.15 million.
Adding in Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco means the club will carry an unwieldy five outfielders should Reynolds stay up. The team famously set about employing a "four outfielder rotation" in 2018 before dealing Austin Meadows away as part of the Chris Archer package. Can something similar be attempted with a five-man group?
The answer to that is very likely no. Position flexibility cannot be relied upon to solve this problem, as neither Dickerson, Reynolds or Cabrera have played any infield position at any point in their professional careers.
It will be awfully tough to justify sending Reynolds down to make room for Dickerson, yet the Pirates might be left with little choice.
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