Neal Huntington Improved the Pittsburgh Pirates Today


Sometimes it’s the small details that help a Major League baseball club improve over the long haul and I believe the Pittsburgh Pirates did that today.  Here is how I see the deal the Pittsburgh Pirates made in picking up Chris McGuiness from the Texas Rangers.

The Bucs gave up Alex Dickerson a few weeks ago. The guy is big and is also a strong hitter who was a third-round pick in 2011 out of Indiana University, but he never played above Double-A ball outside a late season call up for bench warming purposes for the Indianapolis Indians brief playoff run.

While at AA Altoona he lacked patience at the plate, but he put up a .288/.337/.494 line with 17 bombs.  If you dig deeper, Dickerson had roughly three months of success for the Curve.  Also, from our untrained eyes, Dickerson always looked clumsy at first base and had 17 errors at the position in 2012. The Bucs put him in right for the 2013 AA season and his range was poor while the clunkiness remained.

There wasn’t a snowballs chance in Bermuda of Dickerson ever stepping foot in right field for the Pirates.  So just where would Dickerson fit into the Pirates future in a perfect world situation?   Yeh. Tough question.

So the Pirates increased his value by keeping him in right field in 2013 and then after a solid performance in the AFL, the Bucs moved Dickerson to San Diego for Jaff Decker and right-hander Miles Mikolas.

Today, the Pirates flipped Mikolas for McGuiness. So let’s say Alex Dickerson, who wouldn’t immediately fit into the Pirates future was traded for two players the Pirates scouts like.  Each player that the Bucs picked up have some possible, perhaps longshot-upside to helping the Pirates in 2014.

The organization had Matt Hague as AAA depth a month ago.  Now that’s changed.  After Huntington’s move to acquire McGuiness, the team now has some serious, yet unproven competition to look forward to in Bradenton in Hague, McGuiness and Travis Ishikawa.

At it’s core, todays deal is one that most fans would say won’t improve the ballclub. I disagree. The odds that the deal is a momentum shifting one are slim, but at least the team gave themselves a chance to improve. Even if it only makes the team stronger in terms of depth by adding two players in Decker and McGuiness with limited big league experience.  The Bucs gave up a player that hasn’t swung a bat at the AAA level to make it happen.

Jaff Decker won’t be the next Matt Stairs as some have compared him to in the past.   But Decker is patient and has a powerful lower body, or maybe just some big ass legs that might help him pull a few balls out of PNC Park in 2014.  Well,  if he can somehow stay healthy.

Decker played 13 games with San Diego and collected four hits including a bomb in his 26 at-bats. The team grew impatient and he looks like a player the Bucs coaching staff could help in 2014.

McGuiness is a similar case as Dickerson. He was blocked in Texas and the Pirates have a desperate need for depth at first base. (As well as a starting first baseman, but that’s for another day.)  The two options McGuiness brings with him are as appealing as is his big league experience.  If you don’t have a starter at first base, you might as well collect as many possible options as humanly possible.

But when you take a closer look at what Huntington has done, here are the facts:  The Pirates roster now has two players that have big league experience, but each come with obvious weaknesses.  (McGuiness struck out 13 times in his 34 June at-bats, while Decker might just be too damn patient at the plate.)

The Bucs got those two players for a player in Dickerson, that in all likelihood, wouldn’t have ever made it on the Bucs roster.  If Dickerson breaks out for San Diego it will suck to look back on this deal and wonder if Huntington got enough.  But I think it will still come down to the fact that with Gregory Polanco in front of Dickerson, he wasn’t going to ever sniff PNC Park.

Yeh, it’s not sexy, but Dickerson for two rough around the edges players with big league experience sounds alright I guess.  Especially in the cash-strapped/Bob Nutting world that Neal Huntington lives in.  I’ll take it.