The Pirates made some moves on Monday – not big ones, but still somewhat notable. They acquired outfielder Jaff Decker and reliever Miles Mikolas from the Padres, sending them prospect Clint Robinson in exchange. Decker and Mikolas were both added to the 40-man roster, so to make room, the Bucs designated Kyle McPherson and Garrett Jones for assignment.
The three guys in the trade are all minor leaguers, so the DFA of Jones is probably the biggest news here. It’s not as if the Pirates are upgrading from him with this particular move, but he was certain to be a goner this offseason. He was up for arbitration, meaning he’d get a decent raise from his 2013 salary of $4.5M despite a pretty brutal season — .233 average, .708 OPS, 15 HR’s in 440 plate appearances. He went in to a bad slump late in the year, forcing the Bucs to make a move and bring in Justin Morneau. And as I noted several times, the numbers are misleading – they came almost exclusively against right handed pitching. The Bucs shielded GFJ from lefties (always his kryptonite) and he still did not produce. He was also something of a liability on defense.
That’s not to say anyone’s thrilled to see the Jones era come to an end – he was a great scrap-heap pickup that turned in to one of the team’s best and most consistent power hitters for several years – and of course, a class act and great teammate (he handled the Morneau situation very well this year after being benched down the stretch). But, it is clearly time to move on, and I doubt anybody would debate that.
McPherson had emerged as a guy that most figured would factor into the rotation this year until arm trouble caused problems for him right out of the gate this spring. He’s recovering from Tommy John surgery and won’t be back until the summer, so there isn’t much sense in keeping a fringe big-league arm on the roster if he’ll be out that long. McPherson may still have a future with the Pirates – they could probably get him back on a minor league deal.
Now for the trade the Bucs made to fill those two roster spots. Neither guy is going to blow anyone away. Jaff (yes, Jaff, not Jeff) Decker is one of those guys that has been all over the minors (with varying degrees of success) even though he’s only 23. He’s cracked the majors but spent most of 2013 in AAA where he was fairly productive at the plate, posting a .381 OBP. He isn’t a big power threat (10 HR’s this year), so he looks like a fourth OF option for now with potential to become more later on. It remains to be seen what the Bucs will do to address RF – I’d think they’ll do more than this – but Decker is an interesting enough guy to add to the mix. My guess is that he starts out in Indy and could be a guy that shuffles up and down based on need, kind of like Alex Presley did for a while.
Mikolas is a big ground ball loving righty and could be next in the line of random Neal Huntington bullpen pickups that turn out to be useful (think Vin Mazzaro, Jeanmar Gomez, etc). He was OK in 2012 for the Padres and has a decent enough minor league resume, although nothing really stands out. The 25 year old will also probably start out in Indy, as the Bucs don’t appear to need bullpen help right away, but he seems to be a decent depth option that could help out at some point.
The Bucs sent Alex Dickerson to San Diego to acquire Mikolas and Decker. That is a mild surprise since he was one of their better upper-level hitters in the minors, but that wasn’t saying all that much, sadly. He is also 23 and spent all of 2013 in Altoona, where he was pretty good (.288/.337/.494 with 17 homers) but didn’t exactly tear it up. People seem to like him as a hitter but he isn’t projected to be a can’t miss type – Pirates Prospects had him ranked 28th in the system, so he was on the radar but isn’t a big loss. Decker looks to be more advanced at the same age, and if either he or Mikolas end up helping the Pirates, giving him up will likely be worth it.
So, not tremendously exciting, but some things are happening. Here are some other quick notes:
The Bucs “checked” on veteran SS Rafael Furcal, who missed all of 2013 with an injury. He isn’t what he used to be, to put it nicely, but the SS market is obviously quite thin.
Still no word on A.J. Burnett, and Neal Huntington revealed even more about how/why the Bucs aren’t offering him as much as he’s worth. This continues to baffle me, but for now I’ll continue to hold out hope Burnett comes back on the Pirates’ reduced terms.
Jones is gone, but it sounds like Gaby Sanchez will be back and could be in another platoon situation.