Corey Dickerson’s major league debut came June 22, 2013, when the then-24-year-old started in right field and batted sixth for the Rockies on a Saturday afternoon in Washington. He doubled twice, helped his team to a 7-1 victory and thought to himself: “This is a nice ballpark.”
“I remember like it was yesterday,” Dickerson said Tuesday, nearly a decade later. “It was amazing. I still remember that first at-bat and just walking out on the field for the first time. I felt like this is what the big leagues is all about. I always remember the Nats’ stadium because of that.”
Dickerson will get a chance to make some new memories at Nationals Park this season, his winding career having now brought him to D.C. as a member of the home team after stops in Colorado, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Miami, Toronto and St. Louis. Now 33, he signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Nats on Tuesday and figures to open the season as their starting left fielder, playing mostly against right-handed pitching.
It’s been a winding path for Dickerson, not only in the stops he’s made but in the different types of player he’s been along the way. He mashed 24-plus homers in three different seasons early in his career. He won a Gold Glove Award in 2018. He hit .304 with a .906 OPS in 2019. Then while battling injuries and reduced playing time, he focused more on being a good contact hitter in recent years.
Some might look down upon a guy who has worn seven different uniforms the last seven seasons. Dickerson, though, doesn’t view it as a negative.
“It’s also a great opportunity. A lot of times if you stay with a team too long, it can become monotonous with people’s routines and things like that, being in one place too long. But I take fulfilment in getting to know people right away, trying to learn the sense of humor of every single guy, how you can joke with them, how are they approachable and just trying to be a good teammate.”
Dickerson insisted he can be a power hitter again, if healthy and if he makes it a priority again. Based on his previous success at Nationals Park – he owns an impressive .359 batting average and 1.079 OPS in 19 career games here – he should feel comfortable in the batter’s box from day one.
“I like the more modern ballpark. You see the ball really well there,” he said. “I don’t know, I always really enjoyed playing there. And usually when you get something good going, you hit good somewhere, you just get good vibes. And every time you come back, you remember those good vibes, those good times, and try to repeat it.”
* To clear space for Dickerson on the 40-man roster, the Nationals made a somewhat surprising move: They designated Andres Machado for assignment.
The 29-year-old reliever seemed to come into his own last season, posting a 3.34 ERA and 1.365 WHIP in 51 appearances. He was especially effective down the stretch, closing out the year with 17 consecutive scoreless outings.
So why would the Nats drop Machado over less-effective pitchers like Cory Abbott and Jordan Weems? There may still have been a sense among some of the club’s decision-makers that Machado wasn’t as effective as his numbers suggested. He doesn’t strike out a ton of batters (7.0 per nine innings). He actually gave up six runs in September; they were just all unearned. And he rarely pitched in high-leverage situations.
On top of that, Machado was going to be out of options this season. If he didn’t make the Opening Day roster, he would’ve needed to be placed on waivers. The Nationals may feel like he has a better chance of going unclaimed now – and thus remaining in the organization – than he would if he was DFA’d at the end of spring training.
* In Tuesday’s other transaction, the Nationals acquired 18-year-old right-hander Cristian Jimenez from the Twins for right-hander A.J. Alexy.
Alexy, you may or may not remember, was claimed off waivers from the Rangers last month, then DFA’d last week to clear a spot for Dominic Smith. He probably would’ve been ticketed for Triple-A Rochester, where he’d have had an outside shot at a promotion to the big league staff sometime during the season if the need arose.
Who knows what will become of Jimenez, who has only pitched in the Dominican Summer League so far as a professional? But if he develops into anything at all, that’s potentially a savvy move by the Nationals.