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


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.



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.




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



  1. steelkings says:

    Back to the Cardinals for a minute. I read where the Cardinals are likely to move Holliday to 3rd base. So what do they do with the Craig/Adams situation at 1st base? Certainly a well payed Craig isn’t going to platoon with a arbitration eligible Matt Adams.
    Matt Adams,25 year old left handed 1st baseman would be a great fit. Its too bad the Cardinals would want a kings ransom to deal Adams to the Bucco’s

  2. NorthPirateFan says:

    It’s comments like some of these from Huntington that cause me to continue to question just how committed he and the organization are to the analytical approach. Clearly they have adopted some of it but the statistics from last year belie some of his claims.

    For instance, he says “”We thought we had a chance to have a very affordable, very productive first base platoon. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.” Really, is that the case or is it that despite the claim you didn’t actually use a platoon at first?

    Garrett Jones started fewer than half the teams games last year at first base last year, 80, playing there in only 83 while stating 25 and playing 32 in right field… Gabby Sanchez started 60 games at first and played in 132.

    Then he says “Gaby carried his end of the deal.” Did he, really?

    Gabby Sanchez hit .333/.448/.539 – .987 in 124 PAs against LHP, which is pretty darn good for the right hand side of a platoon … but he also hit .204/.304/.315 – .619 in 188 plate appearances against RHP far worse than what Jones hit.

    This isn’t a comment on the respective value of the players but on their usage and Huntington’s assessment.

    Those numbers are clearly not those of two players used in a platoon situation, cheap or otherwise, so claiming that a platoon didn’t work out when the team didn’t actually use a platoon is pretty puzzling.

    Either Neal Hunting doesn’t know what a platoon is, unlikely, or he’s not paying that close attention to what’s transpiring on the field and that’s a bit troubling.

  3. Nate83 says:

    He played 80 of the first 125. That is all that matters. At that point he played his way out of being a viable option. He was horrible and at the time they were in a pennant race. You couldn’t keep running him out there late in the year.

    We also faced very few left handed pitchers early in the year. At one point I think we had like 15 games against lefties when most teams had like 25-30. Very few left handed pitchers in the NL central. Gaby had played well enough and Jones bad enough to warrent giving Sanchez some starts at first against righties. In my opinion Jones did not hold up his end of the platoon. If he had then Gaby wouldn’t have played against righties as much as he did. The numbers support the fact that Jones didn’t do his job.

    Long story short. Gaby is a good enough piece on this team to deserve 300 at bats which is what he got. The fact that we played so few left handed pitchers can’t be helped. He more then likely also got 70-80 at bats against righties as a late inning defensive replacement in close games and games that he started against a lefty and righty relievers came in later in the game. So we essentially are talking about maybe 25 games he played instead of Jones when a righty started. That sound about right considering how bad Jones was in July and Augest.

  4. NMR says:

    I’m fairly confident that if you go back through the lineups, Gaby’s starts against RHP almost always had Jones playing RF as well.

    Gaby was taking at-bats from Travis Snider, not Garrett Jones.

  5. Nate83 says:

    Good point.

    I was going to mention the same thing about our right field having injuries and their own problems with underperforming which led to both starting sometimes but I was getting long winded so I left it out. There is no reason Jones deserved more then the 450 or so at bats he got last year. He didn’t earn it.

  6. NMR says:

    Agreed, good sir.

  7. NorthPirateFan says:

    Exactly my point, that’s not a platoon when the left hander is playing at another position and the right hander is getting playing time his platoon splits clearly show he shouldn’t be getting.

    As to the Jones played himself out claim, again, the narrative is not supported by the numbers. Jones got a mere 77 at bats in April and posted an .884 OPS while Sanchez continued to get starts at first against RHP 77 gain in July.

    Again, not a comment on the players and their abilities just stating the facts, Jones starting in RF at Travis Snider’s expense while Sanchez got starts at first against is NOT a platoon at first no matter how many ways we try to reword it to make it appear it was and discussing the merits or failures of a platoon that wasn’t eve used is pointless.

    And why do I raise it again, because there above is Huntington saying that despite all the statistical evidence to the contrary he still believes Sanchez can do better against RHP, a sentiment expressed by Hurdle to explain why Sanchez was getting those starts as they were occurring.

    If the Pirates, Clint Hurdle and now Neal Huntington apparently have learned nothing from what happened last season at first and this is and they try to use players in the same way, guess what, they’re going to get the same results at first base.

    The evidence is now crystal clear that what Travis said is accurate, Sanchez needs a platoon mate (and he’s not the only on the roster) and key people in the decision making process seem who claim to be sabermetricly inclined don’t want to accept that and keep arguing against the statistical evidence.

  8. NorthPirateFan says:

    The total number of plate appearances Jones got last year is completely irrelevant to the point … the number of plate appearances he got while playing at first base is the only thing germane to whether or not there was in fact a platoon of Jones and Sanchez used at first as Huntington is claiming.

    There was no platoon of Jones at first no matter what they’re saying now, there was a haphazard approach to who got time at first with Jones ending up with far less playing time than left hander in a true platoon would have and and Sanchez to the detriment of the offense far more than he should have.

  9. NMR says:

    Dude, you’re missing the forest through the trees if you think anybody does not know that Jones and Gaby need platoon mates. Don’t know what else could possibly be said or done to change your mind.

    And as for Huntington’s comment on Sanchez vs RHP, he’s absolutely correct.

    From 2010-2011 Sanchez slashed .256/.329/.415 w/ 10.8%BB, 16.0%K, and .283 BABIP over 982 PA.

    From 2012-2013 Sanchez slashed .205/.315/.315 w/ 9.6%BB, 17.8%K, and .234 BABIP over 409 PA.

    Even a cursory understanding of sample sizes and regression tells you that there is very obvious statistical evidence that Sanchez can get better against RHP.

  10. NMR says:

    Again man, you’re missing the forest through the trees.

  11. Leefoo says:

    I am not losing any sleep over this trade. Jaffy boy is another in a long line of former #1 prospects (or #1 picks) that we’ve traded for. I predict he will end up like all the others…bums….

    As for Dickerson, he was a LH Matt Hague. No great loss.

    I would’ve liked to keep G Jones, but he appears to be on the downside. Nice guy.

    I think that Miles M, the reliever, will turn out to be the keeper and I think that was what the trade was all about. Decker and Dickerson were just change of scenery guys.


  12. Nate83 says:

    Your probably right. Decker is cheaper then Snider. He’s a new scratch off ticket and can’t be worse then Snider so why not roll the dice with a new $1 ticket instead of a $5 ticket that already has 4 of the things scratched off with no matches. I’m not sure if any of that makes sense because I don’t play instant lottery but I’ve gotten a few as gifts so I think I got it right.

  13. NMR says:

    Ha, yes! Somebody else picked up my Matt Hague analogy.

    Alex Dickerson was a fine college baseball player, but ultimately a product of pre-BBCOR bats and an overdraft in the 3rd round. Good organizational piece, as is Decker, but not a Major Leaguer. Mikolas will join Welker as pen options.

    The 2014 payroll picture is getting clearer, and it’s going to leave a lot of fans unhappy. We now no there will be no RF or SS signings and 1B will be a platoon. James Loney is not coming to Pittsburgh to platoon, folks, which means whoever the Pirates pair with Gaby will be cheap.

    That leaves starting pitching as the only spot for spending. Right now the Pirates opening day payroll is about $12m less than where they finished last year, and we’ve all heard Neal Huntington’s opinion on $14m qualifying offers. Don’t hold your breath if you expect to see a dime of the new TV money put into payroll.

  14. Nate83 says:

    I appreciate your side of the debate and completely understand what you are saying. Circumstances didn’t allow for a pure platoon. However I believe it allowed for enough of one to say that Jones did not hold up his end and Gaby did. Especially at the amount Jones is making I think it’s fair for the Pirates to move on.

    I like Jones, maybe we can re-sign him after we don’t tender him for something more reasonable like 2.5M or 3M. He is the type of bounce back player we usually look for. I don’t think anyone will claim him because he just didn’t play well enough to warrent the 5-5.5M he would get in arbitration.

    Arbitration really is a flawed process after that first year. The first year sets your value based on your career up until that point which is fair but then any year after that nobody ever seems to get a paycut when they just completely stink like Jones did last year.

  15. NMR says:

    Haha, no I think you nailed the analogy.

    But I don’t think Decker was acquired to even be that much. Given the Pirates outfield situation, I doubt Decker ever gets enough AB’s to figure out if he’s legit or not.

    What he is to me is a guy who makes a little better contact, plays a little better defense, and gets on base. Solid organizational depth with two options left compared to zero for Snider.

  16. Nate83 says:

    The question is will you be unhappy or are you willing to see what they do with their own players as they get closer to free agency. If the money goes toward buying out free agent years for Cole, Marte, Polanco, Taillon…. in two or three years are you OK with that being the system they put in place instead of overpaying for Loney, Johnson, Peralta type players.

  17. Leefoo says:


    We think alike so much, we might be the same person.

    Anyone ever seen us together???

    :) :)

  18. Leefoo says:

    I don’t think he was an overdraft. He could always hit. They were just hoping he would develop some power.

    I saw him in AA hit a coupla monster shots, but he was more of a gap hitter. If only he was a SS….lol

  19. NMR says:

    Don’t put that evil on me, buddy! :) :)

  20. NMR says:

    Hahaha, no, I do not believe there is a piggy bank out there in Nuttingland with money saved up for that purpose.

    Just as I never expected money saved when payroll was shredded to ever make it’s way back.

    I’m 1 for 1 so far.

  21. NMR says:

    Physically mature college seniors draft picks who develop power as a pro are a serious long shot.

    Sure, Dickerson can hit. But he’s a corner defender, and a poor one at that, without much power or on-base skill. Org guy from the start.

    That’s an overdraft as a 3rd rounder in my book.

  22. NMR says:

    And just so I’m not that guy who shoots down everyone elses ideas without giving one of my own, I’ll guess that Justin Smoak will be the Pirates lefty portion of a 1B platoon next year.

    Mariners seem hellbent on signing Kendrys Morales, who seems hellbent on playing 1B. The Mariners also seem to end up with guys who techinically play positions but really should DH. Huntington has been fond of Smoak in the past and has a track record of getting guys like that.

  23. steelkings says:

    The Rockies are set to hire the services of Justin Morneau. Roto says its a bargain contract that only doesnt happen if Napoli gets in the way.

  24. steelkings says:

    Platoons are too easy for an opposing manager to manipulate. And it just another reason why no one of value wants to play in Pittsburgh. Guys want to start. Platoon partners are guys nearing the end it seems.

  25. steelkings says:

    I’ll guess Adam Dunn with Chicago eating a healthy portion of that contract.

  26. Travis Sawchik says:

    In an ideal world the Pirates would do just that … but I don’t think Boras has any visions of a deal that buys out any of Cole’s free agency or even arbitration years. He could be awfully expensive in 3-4 years. I think they want to see another year from Marte before thinking extension

  27. Andrew says:

    I do not follow NorthPiratesFan’s initial point; the first base platoon was compromised because Jones played 196 innings in right field, so the front office/Hurdle favored Jones in RF, Sanchez at 1st against some right-handed pitching. The comparison should be between Sanchez versus RHP and Snider versus RHP and coming into the year Sanchez versus RHP .313 wOBA, Snider .322 wOBA, which is why I think clamoring for Snider to get/should have gotten more PA versus RHP is suspect.

    Snider was better, but over 200 PAs (Sanchez got 194 vs RHP) if you replace Sanchez’s projected performance with Snider’s the Pirates would have gotten 1.57 more runs which is .17 wins. And their performance against RHP in 2013, Sanchez .281 wOBA, Snider .282 wOBA, so the Pirates did not leave runs out there.

    However I agree with NorthPiratesFans’s assertion about Sanchez needing a platoon partner going forward. I quickly regressed Sanchez spilt, assuming he is a .332 wOBA hitter.

    Observed of .388 vs LHP / .309 vs RHP
    Regressed of .341 vs LHP/ .309 vs RHP

  28. Travis Sawchik says:

    Unless the Cardinals draft them … amazing track record with college seniors

  29. Travis Sawchik says:

    Good name, NMR

    I’ve always been a fan of Smoak but perhaps I’m biased because of my time in South Carolina and Charleston

  30. Andrew says:

    How are platoons easy to manipulate?

  31. Travis Sawchik says:

    Another name that’s interesting. Chicago would have to eat a lot of dollars … and would then demand at least a lower-tier top 10 prospect, I would think

  32. Nate83 says:

    Well he was rumored as being part of a trade between the Pirates and Mariners last year. He also fits the mold of high end prospect that hasn’t lived up to his potential. He has shown a glimpse of being really good for short stretches but has never put it all together consistantly.

  33. NMR says:

    Andrew Friedman and Billy Beane have something to say about that. Seems like those guys are kind’ve successful.

  34. NMR says:

    This is the move I personally want to see.

  35. Nate83 says:

    Good we can move on. I liked the guy and thought he added value to the team but he hardly was the August Twin that most thought we were getting. Funny how 3 years of stats ended up being more accurate then one hot month. They gave up an appropriate amount for him. I’m glad they didn’t do something crazy and give a top 5 or even top 10 prospect.

  36. NMR says:

    Hopefully Huntington catches Rick Hahn on an Alex-Rios-for-Leury-Garcia kind of day.

  37. Nate83 says:

    Well I think they want to spend the 15-20 million but I don’t think they just want to spend it to spend it. If they think Loney is a 5-6 million type player they are not going to give him 10 just to make the fans happy. They will maybe go the trade route instead.

  38. NMR says:

    They’re already $12m short of last years number and have all but said the only additions will come at 1B and SP.

    If they wanted to spend it, they wouldn’t be haggling with AJ.

  39. NMR says:

    And they absolutely should look at what the Cards just did with Peralta.

    I don’t have any doubt John Mozeliak went into this winter thinking Johnny Peralta was less than a 4 yr $52m player.

    But in the end, he had the money and he didn’t put being the smartest guy in the room above improving his baseball team.

    The Pirates may not be in Cardinal free agent territory – I’l even give them the benefit of the doubt on that – but they absolutely have the money for a Burnett or a Loney. I’m not sure how that can be disputed. If they choose not to spend it because market rates are a few million above internal value, then that is both dumb and arrogant.

  40. Nate83 says:

    I respect that view but were do you draw the line. Maybe Martin was a slight overpay by 1 or 2 million a year. Some of the these guys are getting contracts that if they fail would set the Pirates back a couple years. If your the Pirates you can’t have Jason Kendall type contracts.

    Let’s say Loney’s value is 5-6 million. I’m perfectly fine with the Pirates giving him 7-8 million and two years. If they give him 9-10 million and 3 years just because another team is willing to do that I’d be disappointed. I would rather them persue trades instead.

  41. NMR says:

    Very worthy question, Nate.

    With the way free agency costs have escalated, I honestly do not believe the Pirates will ever even be in the conversation for a franchise-crippling contract. At least not under Huntington.

  42. Nate83 says:

    I believe the Indians jumped in pretty aggressively last year with the Swisher and Bourn contracts. Not to much unlike what I imagine most Pirate fans want them to do this year. Nobody looks at those contracts and thinks they will be good in years 3,4 and 5. They felt compelled to go that high because the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, Tigers of the world are willing to go high and long on contracts for those type players because they can afford to.

    The Indians will be interesting to watch over the next 4 years. They already will be going much younger at pitcher this year. The Swisher and Bourn contracts will probably prohibit them from signing other meaningful free agents to fill holes going forward.

    It would be interesting to see over the last 5 years how many of the top 50 free agents each year are signed by the bottom 10 teams and if it’s trending to fewer and fewer. I really think trades are the way for small market teams to aquire the talent they need. Unfortunately that usually won’t net immediate results. It can’t be easy for the Rays to trade Shields and Price but they realize it’s how to aquire the talent since they will never get the talent through free agency.

  43. NMR says:

    No offense Nate, but I really hope Neal Huntington doesn’t think like this.

    Focusing solely on whether or not those guys will perform to their contract over the last year or two completely ignores the positive benefits from the early years. And if the contract isn’t awful – which Swisher’s and Bourn’s are not – then even those last years won’t be wasted, just simply underperforming.

  44. Nate83 says:

    No offense taken. I’m just simply saying there is more then one way to skin a cat. You will not see the Rays or the A’s for that matter giving out contracts like the one Swisher and Bourn got unless it’s to one of their own guys and he still hasn’t hit free agency and their buying out some of those years.

    They will sign free agents but they will be more like the Liriano, Martin type deals. Short term moderate money to free agents that fall between 25-50 top free agents.

    When is the last time the Pirates signed any free agent to a contract over 2 years. It may be none over the last 10 years. I’m not as familiar with the Rays or A’s but I’m guessing it’s just as rare with them as well. I’d rather be them then the Royals, Indians and Rockies. I think it stinks but I think it’s what you need to do if your a small market team in the current economic system baseball has.

  45. Nate83 says:

    NMR, I just wanted to clarify my overall stance on the topic of payroll. I have always thought that the low end of payroll for the Pirtes should be 80M with 100M being the high end. If they don’t start the season somewhere in that range I would be disappointed I just want them to get to that number in a smart way.

    I don’t want them to do a 4 year/40M deal for a player that isn’t worth it. That ties up money in for years to come. In that case it would 12.5% of a 80M payroll. It prevents you from future moves.

    If the market dictates overpaying then do it on a Johnson type player. Someone looking for a 1 or 2 year deal like Martin and Liriano deals. Get two guys like that each year, wash, rinse and repeat every year until that money makes more sense to spend on your own guys to extend and buy out free agent years. If those players/agents are not willing to do that then trade them 2 years before free agency when they have top value.

  46. steelkings says:

    Garrett Jones is the starter. If he is due up in an inning the next relief pitcher is a lefty. This gets Jones out of the game. Sanchez comes in as your only available 1st baseman. If Sanchez comes to the plate in a “I need an out” situation, you run a right hander up there and there is your out. Or a high percentage chance.

  47. steelkings says:

    What has Billy Beane and Andrew Friedman ever won ? Couple of playoff series? I am so sick of just being competitive being good enough. We dont celebrate losing to the Braves in 7 games. We dont celebrate almosts. We celebrate Maz hitting a walk off against the Yankees. we celebrate coming from behind to hang a WS loss on the Orioles. All Beane and Friedman did was almost shock the world , Which is another way of saying, Lose!

  48. NMR says:

    Absolutely ridiculous and really not even worthy of comment.

    But just because it is so easy, go ahead and check out the World Champion Boston Red Sox roster.

    Hint: starts with a “p”!

  49. NMR says:

    So burning three pitchers is your idea of “easy to minipulate”?

    Got it.

  50. Nate83 says:

    I get what you are saying but in your remaining lifetime as a Pirates fan unless something drastically changes platoons are what you will see from the Pirates and other small market teams more often then not. The money is just not there to go around the diamond and put a quality well rounded player at every position. Those guys cost 12-15M or more per year to get or retain.

    The best way to compete in the current economic system is young players with years of control and then filling in with players that fit the platoon role in that when combines with another person who does the opposite thing well they equal an average MLB player. It’ not pretty. It has it’s flaws but it’s the best solution I know of short of having an owner willing to lose 40 million a year.

  51. Andrew says:

    Also I would rather have a better hitter for 6 innings, 2/3 of the game; this will far outweigh any potential late game plate appearance match ups over course of the season.

  52. steelkings says:

    @ NMR
    Stupid…Check out the Boston Red Sox……Starts with a DH

  53. NMR says:

    There are no words in the English language that start with a “DH”.

  54. I realize I am late to the party here, but for the benefit of anyone else reading this thread, I thought I would correct a mistake as well as a misconception. Dickerson was not a college senior ; he was drafted as a Junior out of Indiana in 2011.

    Also, it is just silly to say he has little power. His ISO of .206 was 6th in the Eastern League, behind five much older players. He played in a home park that is horrible for left-handed power hitters. His ISO on the road was .252, which would have led the league.

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