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Instant analysis: Pirates acquire Jaff, designate Jones, and call on Furcal

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Sure, it was not Fielder-for-Kinsler of even Bourjos-for-Freese, but the Pirates did give us some hotstove fodder Monday in swapping fringy assets with the Padres.

 

Alex Dickerson is an interesting young bat, but he was blocked by a number of other outfielders in the system and he was not one of the Pirates’ top 10 or even 20 prospects. The Pirates traded him Monday for two pieces that could help this season in outfielder Jaff Decker (No, not, Jeff Dacker) and RHP Miles Mikolas.

 

Decker was once a top 100 prospect (No. 82 by  Baseball America in 2010). But injuries set him back in 2011 and 2012 before he rebounded last seasonat Triple-A Tucson, batting .289 with a .381 on-base percentage. Decker’s most interesting traits are that he posted a .402 on-base percentage over six minor league seasons and that he can plan all three OF position. He’s also a left-handed bat, meaning he could platoon with Jose Tabata.

 

If nothing else – even if Decker is just Travis Snider with less power — it is another example of the Pirates old school (scouts) and new school types (analytics) complementing each other.

 

“Our (scouts) have stayed with (Decker). They like the things he does. They like the baseball player. They like the tools package. They felt like he was a good acquire for us this year,” Huntington said. “Metrically our guys felt like he was a good acquire…. they liked how he controlled the strike zone.”

 

Mikolas fits into the Pirates’ groundball philosophy. He generates a better than average groundball rate with a low 90s sinker. He’s cut from similar cloth as Jeanmar Gomez.

 

It’s not a splash trade but what both players do is at least extend the Pirates’ organizational depth and give Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle more flexibility in 2014.

 

WHAT ABOUT FIRST BASE?

To clear room for Decker and Mikolas, the Pirates designated Garrett Jones for assignment.  This was not a shocking development as Jones was unlikely to be tendered before Monday’s non-tender deadline. Jones has regressed and he is again arbitration eligible after earning $4.5 million in 2013. Simply put, he’d become too expensive for a regressing player.

 

“In Garrett’s case the arbitration process was likely to drive the dollars above where we were comfortable with,” Huntington said.

 

There’s a chance he could come back on a much less expensive deal. We’ll see. What we do know is that the Pirates need to upgrade first base and Huntington indicated the team is looking at platoon options Monday.

 

“As we look at the market to see if there’s a platoon partner out there for (Gaby Sanchez),  the platoon was not an indictment of Gaby Sanchez as much as it was what we expected from Garrett Jones against right-handed pitching,” Huntington said.  “We thought we had a chance to have a very affordable, very productive first base platoon. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.  Gaby carried his end of the deal.”

 

Huntington indicated Sanchez will be tendered and he did post a .987 OPS against left-handed pitching in 2013, which is excellent. But he posted a .619 OPS against right-handed pitching. While Huntington expressed some believe Sanchez can improve against right-handed pitching that seems optimistic. Sanchez needs a left-handed hitting partner.

 

The problem is finding a left-handed bat. James Loney is viewed as a bargain by so many he might not be a bargain. Lance Berkman is 37 and maybe he can still hit … if he can stay on the field. Perhaps the Rangers would part with Mitch Moreland. The White Sox would listen on Adam Dunn, who is owed considerable dollars… there’s not many obvious candidates.

 

PIRATES CALL ON FURCAL

 

I mentioned earlier today that the Pirates might have some interest in Furcal and Furcal’s agent told me this afternoon the Pirates are indeed one of eight teams to inquire on the 37-year old shortstop.

 

His agent, Paul Kinzer, declined to specify what Furcal’s role would be with the Pirates, but I would guess it would be as a backup shortstop and possible platoon option for Mercer against tough right-handed pitching. We’ll see.  But is Furcal even an upgrade over Clint Barmes? Furcal is less of an offensive void than Barmes, even after missing a year due to an elbow injury, but Barmes can still pick it.

 

– TS

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