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.

The Pirates have traded Alex Dickerson to the Padres for Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas.
The Pirates have traded Alex Dickerson to the Padres for Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas.

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.

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  1. Given his OBP of .381 I could see him starting in RF in the leadoff position against RHP at the start of the season. Marte’s OBP against RHP is lacking (he kills LHP) and this would enhance the punch at the top of the lineup against RHP. Marte could then move down to 5th in front of either Lambo (at 1B) or Alvarez against RHP, returning to leadoff against LHP.

  2. do you think he will elect free agency since he is recovering from an injury?

    I hope he sticks with Bucs to at least keep his recovery plan intact and that he is able to get some innings in at end of season.

    • It would make sense for him to elect free agency and sign a minor league deal. I do think the injury will limit his options, and the Pirates also want him back. So I can see him sticking around.

      • I don’t think the Padres would have been so eager to cut ties with Decker if they thought he could help them. The Pirates have a history of trying to rejuvenate the careers of former first round players without much success, so I am not holding my breathe with him. I like Neal’s track record with relievers though, so hopefully the trade pays dividends in that regard.

  3. Don’t understand you reasoning that McPherson would become a MilB FA if he is not claimed on waivers. Can you explain how he becomes a MiLB FA please.

  4. Marginally related to the subject at hand… Given Bucs will get nothing for Jones, I’m kind of hoping Neal can get someone like the Yankees to bite on Snider before next week’s DFA. Yankees appear to be sniffing around McClouth as a cheap 4th OF. Snider may not have McClouth’s #s, but he’s younger and cheaper and possibly still has upside. And those doubles could be HRs in the Bronx.

  5. I think this trade indicates that the FO doesn’t think there will be any place for Dickerson to play. Dacker isn’t any great shakes; I doubt that he makes the ML team out of spring training. Mikolas looks like he will be paired with Cordier as the back end of the bullpen in Indy. Both could be lottery tickets, but most likely Dacker is intended to be Felix Pie light and Mikolas the shuttle guy for the pen all year.

  6. Obviously, we will not be able to truly evaluate this trade for 3-4 years, but on the surface it is a head scratcher. Other than maybe 3B, 1B was one of the thinnest positions in the system. We trade a guy who we drafted in the third round and who put up 2 solid seasons, advancing a level each year. Given Dickerson’s size, his power numbers will likely increase and has far more power potential than a 5’10” outfielder.

    As of today, I don’t like the trade and I don’t understand what we got in value? A former first round pick (5 years ago that is) who profiles as a 4th outfielder. The last time I checked, the Padres were not exactly fielding a stud group of outfielders on their roster last year- and Decker could not even make it the ML level until his cup of coffee this year. And a middle reliever – which are a dime a dozen.

    Dickerson could have been our starting first baseman is 2015.

    Again, I will give the front office the benefit of the doubt – they have certainly earned that. In 3-4 years, we will be able to truly evaluate this trade.

    • If you’re going to factor previous draft position into the equation, then you’d have to consider that Decker was a former first round pick.

      You did mention this, but talked about what he profiles as right now. You didn’t do that with Dickerson, except to say he might improve. I don’t know why you’d say that Decker is done improving and Dickerson isn’t done, even though they’re the same age.

      I’ve talked with scouts the last two years who just don’t see the power increasing with Dickerson. Power isn’t so much about size as it is bat speed. If it was only about the size, then Chris Lashmet would have been a 50 home run hitter. He had a similar frame to Dickerson, and didn’t hit for any power. The way I see it, Dickerson and Decker are pretty similar in value.

    • Tim – I don’t recall ever saying that Decker would not improve. I did say he was a former first round pick, although that was 5 years ago. Despite being a former first round pick, he has spent 5 years in the Padres system and did not get any ML time until 2013 – and the Padres do not exactly have a HOF outfield.

      Obviously size doesn’t always determine power – I am 53 years old, I have played, coached, and seen my share of baseball. But, Dickerson was drafted partly because of his position, size, and power potential. He played the past two years in leagues and/or ball parks that were not HR friendly. If he played in say Tuscon, I think his HR numbers would be much higher.

      At best, Decker will be a 4/5 outfielder in all likelihood – unless you feel he will take McCutcheon’s, Marte’s, or Polanco’s position. I am sorry, but I see another Travis Snider. I hope I am wrong.

      Obviously, NH knows a lot more about these players than you or I do, and they have earned my patience. In 3-4 years we will see how this pans out. But, given the positions of the players involved, it is a head scratcher to me.

      • What you said was this:

        “A former first round pick (5 years ago that is) who profiles as a 4th outfielder.”

        And it’s not that I disagree. But to act like Dickerson is more than that is just wrong.

        I also agree that Decker doesn’t fit in to the long-term plans. I didn’t think that Dickerson fit in either. We didn’t have him as a top 30 prospect last year, and he barely cracked the top 30 this year.

  7. We traded Alex Dickerson, a guy who barely cracked the 20-30 range of our prospects and everyone is up in arms? While I was a little surprised he got traded, I ain’t losing any sleep over it.


    • Exactly! Too many clueless people on these boards. Who care about Alex Dickerson??? He was never part of the future plans. They tried to get more for him at the deadline while he was hot but nobody would bite. The more I look at the trade the more I like it.

      Oh and for all you panic worried people. There will a couple legit moves coming soon. Not a doubt in my mind.

  8. You guys might think I’m nuts. And I know it’s very far from a chance to be a reality. But with this happening, we just acquired a young relief pitcher. Gives us a chance to trade melancon or grilli. We saved 6 mil with getting rid of jones. Id like to see the pirates sign loney. What id love to see is the pirates trade for Chris owings from the diamondbacks. And still have money for another starting pitcher. I know it’s far from a reality but id really like to get Chris owings

  9. Haven’t looked at every comment but do we realize Dickerson played exactly ZERO games at first base in 2013? Hardly the ‘first baseman of the future’ that the PG (Smizik) claims.

    • Dickerson played first base prior to 2013. He was moved in 2013 to give Matt Curry the playing time at first. I wouldn’t say he was the first baseman of the future, but I would say first base is his future.

  10. IMO this is a sign that the Pirates may finally start to value BB/K rates for hitters and OBP. Jones and Dickerson were always going to be below average MLB players because they don’t get on base. Just like Alvarez will never be elite because he doesn’t get on base.

    • “Just like Alvarez will never be elite because he doesn’t get on base”.
      Are you on drugs? Try paying him in 2 years! He is going to get elite money. Right now he is no where near as good as he will be in two years. He will hit for higher average, he will hit many home runs and he will strike out less, the Pirates ought to be concerned about who they can hit behind him for a year or two, going to be a lot of pitching around coming up.

      • I’ve said this 1,000 times – if Alvarez never gets any better he’ll still be a huge asset to this team. I would love to see the average go up, the strikeouts go down and maybe they will. And some better pitch recognition. He’s just approaching his prime. But Alvarez as is, is still massive to this team and unfortunately he’s going to command well north of what the Pirates can afford in a few years.

      • And where did that get Grossman……….Oh yes Traded to Houston. Pirates don’t reward those type players …they just use them for trade fodder

  11. For me I see this more as a reflection of what management thinks of Dickerson more then what they think of the guys they got. Decker was a prospect long time ago. He isn’t anymore. Micklas is a RP with low strike out numbers. Quite frankly there isn’t much here as far as I can tell. Looks like a pass the trash deal.

  12. I can see the reasoning in this trade!
    Decker is ahead of Dickerson right now and Mikolas is a relief pitcher with talent that might make the team out of ST, McPherson was not part of this trade, he was defied because he has very little chance of being picked up, but they could have moved someone else off of the 40 man if they really wanted to, Snyder possibly, in fact that might come very soon also if he is not traded.

  13. Dickerson starts slow each year. He has limited power upside and he has horrendous K/BB rates in the minors. IMO he is a non prospect and you can check backj through the season and I’;ve said the same thing. This pitcher is a guy that allows us to trade Mazzaro, Melancon, Gomez or Hughes or any combination of those guys.

  14. First you don’t trade anybody for a 4th outfielder. Those can be found anywhere. Plus Tabata already has the position. Secondly why do people think because the Jaff D will be a power hitter because he hits left handed? Just go look at his minor league stats..He doesn’t hit for power!! Lambo is a better option. I always though Neal is an idiot, and with these moves he has proven me right!

    • Bob……….is there any chance you are related to Alex Dickerson? Is that why you’re so upset? I’m not sure why they made this move exactly but I’m just not seeing how any Pirates fan could call Neal Huntington an idiot. I need you to remember just how bad this team was in EVERY AREA before he took over and think about what you just said.

    • Haha Bob Martin, now Neal is an idiot??? He has built our system and done it from scraps in a short period of time and with limited resources. You are the idiot!

    • Andrew McCutchen didnt hit homers in the minors either. You can’t always just scout the stat sheet. It usually gives you a good idea and you’d rather have a player with good stats than bad (Decker’s stats are overall great regardless), but scouts think he might grow into some power.

      I”m not saying that Decker is McCutchen, (hopefully) obviously. But young players’ stats don’t always tell the whole story, especially when it comes to power.

      Decker is a nice little prospect, IMO.

        • my point wasnt that scouts are always right. my point was that saying that Decker’s home run count in the minors made Neal an idiot (when most players’ power takes time to develop, anyway) and that everyone thinks he has power only because he is left handed was a silly statement.

          someone assuming that his .400 minor league OBP will translate to the majors is silly too.

  15. I am going to assume that they must feel Dickerson is a butcher in the field at 1B. Decker looks like he could be a very solid 4th outfielder with good OBP. The relief pitcher is young, throws hard and gets ground balls. I trust Ray will get the maximum out of him. I always liked Dickerson’s bat so this move surprises me a little but if he can’t play 1B then he was useless to us,

    • cs : as someone who has seen Dickerson play both 1st base and the OF,he was not a ” butcher ” at either position,though no James Loney or Greg Polanco. His biggest problem was that his OBP was never going to be high enough to support his lack of HR power. He just din’t walk enough,and it was pretty apparent after watching him this past season.

      • So basically decent average, doubles power, low walks and lack of power? If he never develops the power would yet another Matt Hague comparison be valid? I’ve never been a “you need power at the corners at all costs” type of guy but for the positions Dickerson plays it does sound a little as though he doesn’t quite fit the mold.

  16. I don’t understand this at all ? I think Dickerson had more potential than either one of these guys in the long run …. I know all prospects don’t make it but I like as many possibilities as possible. I have never been high on trading guys like Dickerson for a relief option and a 5th OF at best .. SD must not have been to high on them I read some where they were DFA before this trade. Only thing I can think of is they are trading Melancon and using the pitcher to replace him as set up man ? What do I know its hard to bash Neal with all he has done…

    • I’m confused by this deal. Not disappointed because I’m not going to pretend I know more than NH. I’m just not sure what their angle was on this one but I’m looking forward to these guys getting in the system to see what they can do. I’m guessing they feel Dickerson was never suited for 1B and they’re going to force Lambo into the lineup which I’m ok with too.

      • My guess is that Decker and Mikolos are both talented guys, but the padres just didn’t have room for them on the 40 man. I dont think they traded Dickerson because they dislike Dickerson. I think they just wanted to outbid other teams. These DFA type trades present a decent opportunity to acquire talent for the price of decreased roster flexibility. the padres got a talented guy who didnt have to be added to the 40 man. The pirates got two talented guys who did have to be added.

        At least I think that’s the phenomenon that we just witnessed. the padres didn’t want to lose the guys for nothing, so they were able to get a fringey prospect without having to put him on the roster.

        • That’s a good point. Conversely I was excited about McPherson and he was DFA-ed. So it’s not like talent doesn’t get DFA-ed.

          They must’ve saw something they liked in either Decker or Mikolas and I trust Neal and the boys. Mikolas seems to definitely fit the Bucs mold for a reliever.

          • Yeah good point on McPherson. I’m betting he’ll be back, but yeah if he’s not they’ll have lost a somewhat talented arm for nothing.

            Hoping his injury keeps other teams away. Typically i’d imagine that injured players would like to keep their rehab with one organization’s doctors from beginning to end. at least i know that’s what i’d want!

  17. Jaff is at least somewhat intriguing. those OBPs tho… And as far as Mikolas, I’ve just learned to let NH do his thing with relievers. Sounds like the prototype.

  18. Does this presage another move for 1B? If Dickerson was somewhat a 1B prospect and Jones has been DFA’d…are they going with Lambo or is this move one of a series of moves?

    • I don’t know how much impact this has on first base. It is interesting that Lambo has been playing first in the VWL.

      Basically I think the Pirates have a lot of directions they could go in for the 1B/RF positions.

  19. Sounds like another Travis Snider. Why wouldn’t the Pirates give Dickerson a shot at 1B? I think, and I said it before, that Dickerson will be a pretty good ML hitter. He hit at every level. We will see.

    • 4 years ago snider was suppose to be a stud…. so just because dickerson is doing good now doenst mean he will once he is in the show. Also snider broke his forearm a few years ago which greatly affected him. to me dacker sounds more promising

      • Why is it you can’t count on certain players no matter how good they do, BUT Polanco has already been given a spot whenever he wants it, has been awarded all future MVP awards and will be awarded a special medal from the UN, all well before he has played a day in the bigs?

        • scouting. most scouts, including tim and others who look at these guys, admit dickerson had limited upside and his power likely wouldnt be enough to sit at a corner spot. those same people see polanco and see a 5 tool player. its a matter of knowing tools and evaluating them. many guys perform well at AA and AAA and never make it. dickerson could play first in the future, but doesnt profile as an everday starter at a power spot.

        • Maybe because Polnaco’s minor league numbers, adjusted for age, are much better than those of Dickerson. Plus Polanco is much faster, a much better defensive player, and has more plate discipline.

          • Do you guys know the % of so called five tool players that don’t make it? That is all I am saying. We just got rid of one of the most heralded five tool players recently. When he came to the majors he could walk on water, fly thru the air, etc. His name was Pie.

            • good call. so lets keep fringe guys who have a ceiling of replacement level. good strategy. with or without polanco, dickerson doesnt have the power to stick at a power spot. scouts have decker with more power.

  20. I really don’t see any value in Decker and Mikolas appears to be a run of run of mill depth reliever. Is this a sign the Pirates are about to move on 1st base prospect or perhaps send Lambo to AAA to get seasoning as 1st baseman?

    The Jones DFA was expected at some point but McPherson move surprises me unless they believe he cannot come back from his injury or they believe he will pass through waivers and can be outrighted to the minors.

    • ?????? I am confused on this one. An average pitcher, and a below average hitting outfielder. We don’t need either, and we give away an above average hitter. This makes no sense at all !!!!! OUCH !!!

      • After seeing the Cardinals get much better with the last two moves they made, we see this from NH ??? It may be time to push the panic button !

      • average pitcher? he touches 98 and is a ground ball guy… fits our mold. Gives us flexibility. Also how can you say hes is below average hitter. he batter 286 last year in triple a, and shows more power than dickerson. Also hes is major league ready. Dickerson is an above average hitter? for what half the year he is… started off slow every year in his career, as well he is only in double a does not mean it will translate to mlb. Once again jaff gives us flexibility

        • ncap: Agree. If I am not mistaken, Mikolas has been used as a Closer in the minors and had 20+ Saves at AAA? Check out the W/K numbers for Decker – he puts the ball in play. Dickerson had ZERO HR’s in the AFL and the reason he has not been given a chance at 1B is because he must have a bad case of “stone hands”. We have some folks who think first base is the easiest position on the field to learn, and nothing could be further from reality – Soft hands, good footwork, receive throws from all 5 guys in the infield, ability to dig the ball out of the dirt, handling cutoffs from the OF, holding runners and then getting off to play the field or charge bunts, etc. – give me a Justin Morneau/Gaby Sanchez anyday, and discount the bat in favor of the defense.

      • also like rumbunter says… let him play right until polanco is ready. if he does good great! Huntington can then look to move him or say he is our 4th OF (small sample size). Or he can platoon with polanco at first until polanco is comfortable to play everyday. Also if he flops then you call polanco up. either way it ends with polanco, and not having tabby blocking him.

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