The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Alex Dickerson. To make room on the 40-man roster for Decker and Mikolas, the Pirates have designated Garrett Jones and Kyle McPherson for assignment. Decker and Mikolas were recently designated for assignment by the Padres.
Decker was a first round pick in the 2008 draft, and was one of the top 100 prospects in the game in 2010, ranking 82nd overall in Baseball America’s rankings. He hit for a .286/.381/.443 line in 350 at-bats last year in Triple-A, then moved to the majors where he went 4-for-26. Decker is only 24 years old and he’s a left-handed hitting outfielder who has power to his pull side. That works well in PNC Park. He has two option years remaining, so he isn’t necessarily a guarantee to be on the 25-man roster on Opening Day.
Mikolas is a right-handed pitcher at 6′ 5″, 215 pounds. In 34 career innings in the majors he has a 3.44 ERA, a 6.4 K/9 and a 4.2 BB/9 ratio. Last year he spent most of the season in Triple-A as a 24 year old, putting up a 3.25 ERA in 61 inning in relief, with a 5.9 K/9 and a 2.5 BB/9. Mikolas is a hard thrower, averaging 93.1 MPH with his fastball in his brief time in the majors. He usually sits 92-95, touching 98. Not surprisingly, he gets a high ground ball rate, with a 50.9% career ground ball rate in the majors, and a 49.8% rate last year in Triple-A. He uses his 75 MPH curveball a lot, with the pitch featuring 12-to-6 break. That is probably the source of the ground balls, since the fastball has been described as flat.
Dickerson was drafted by the Pirates in the third round of the 2011 draft. He was an outfielder in college at Indiana, and was praised for the potential with his bat. The Pirates moved him to first base right away, although he only stuck at the position for a year and a half. They moved him back to the outfield in 2013. Part of that was because Matt Curry was also on the same Altoona team, and only one could play first base. However, Dickerson remained in the outfield, even after Curry went down with hamate surgery.
The Pirates didn’t really need Dickerson to be an outfielder. His bat is more valuable in the outfield, but he was never going to start for them with Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and soon Gregory Polanco filling the starting roles. Meanwhile, they had a need for a first baseman, which was Dickerson’s easiest route to the majors. I always wondered why Dickerson remained in the outfield, even in the AFL. My thought was that it might be an easier position for him, and that it could allow him to focus on his hitting. But now that he has been traded, I’m wondering if he was there just to provide more value, and show that he can be more than just a first baseman.
We didn’t have Dickerson high in the rankings last year, rating him just outside of the top 30. He would have cracked the top 30 this year, but wouldn’t have been in the top 20. Our rankings have been lower on Dickerson, mostly due to the belief that he won’t hit for enough power to justify a starting corner spot. He has also dealt with chronic back problems, which flared up again during his time in the AFL.
I don’t know where Decker would rate in our rankings, since that’s a complicated process. He’s a guy I’m familiar with, so this isn’t my first time looking at him. It seems on the surface that Decker and Dickerson are about the same from a results standpoint, but that the upside with Decker’s power is greater. I also think Decker might be a better outfielder, although that’s irrelevant for the same reasons it didn’t matter for Dickerson.
If those two are equal, then the key to this deal could be Mikolas. The numbers haven’t been great, but he’s a hard thrower with a nice breaking ball. When it comes to relief pitchers, I look at the arm more than the stats. Mikolas has a great arm, and it will be interesting to see what Ray Searage and company can do with him. He’s got one option left, so he could start the 2014 season in Triple-A.
Garrett Jones getting DFAd isn’t a surprise, since he was a week away from being non-tendered by the Pirates. He’s coming off a poor year at the age of 32 and was due for a raise in arbitration, which is a bad combo. Kyle McPherson is a bit of a surprise, but not a huge surprise. He had Tommy John surgery over the summer, so he would have had to start the season on the 60-day DL. The Pirates can try to re-sign him if he clears waivers (he would be eligible for minor league free agency), then try to bring him back under a minor league deal. He should be available to pitch in the second half of the season.