The Pirates have acquired outfielder Jaff Decker (above) and reliever Miles Mikolas from the Padres for Alex Dickerson. They also designated Garrett Jones and Kyle McPherson to clear space for Decker and Mikolas.
There's a lot to unpack here, obviously. The Padres designated Decker and Mikolas for assignment last week. Decker (whose first name is pronounced "Jeff") is significantly more interesting than most waiver bait -- he won't be 24 until February, and he's hit well throughout the minors, albeit in some good hitting environments. A good portion of his offensive value has come through walks, which in the minor leagues probably qualifies as a warning sign. He's a former first-round pick. He probably should open next season at Indianapolis, but it's not hard to see him having some fourth-outfielder-type role in the future, particularly as a lefty who can at least fake his way around center field, if he can improve his offensive game at all. His skill set duplicates Travis Snider's to a significant degree, which might suggest that Snider won't be back next season.
Mikolas played a key role in the Padres' bullpen in 2012, but spent most of last year pitching for Triple-A Tucson. His strikeout rates have been modest, but he's a huge dude who throws hard and gets ground balls, so you can see why the Pirates might be interested in him.
Decker and Mikolas are both potential future contributors, in other words. But the fact that the Pirates traded Alex Dickerson for two guys who had just been designated for assignment tells you a lot of what you need to know about what the Pirates thought about Dickerson. I've never been a big fan of Dickerson as a prospect, because he's a bat-first guy who hasn't actually hit all that well. Decker is about the same age as Dickerson and has arguably hit better, particularly given their ages relative to their leagues.
That the Pirates would clear space by dropping Jones is no surprise. He's been an obvious non-tender candidate since about July. That they finally removed him from their roster confirms what we've all been thinking -- that they'll likely acquire a first baseman from outside the organization. If you're wondering why the Bucs didn't trade Jones first, he would have made about $5.3 million in arbitration, and no one would have paid that much, given that he posted -0.2 WAR last season and has cleared 1 WAR only once since 2009. He had no trade value. Anyway, the Pirates ended up getting 4.2 career wins above replacement from Jones, which isn't as much as you might think, but isn't bad at all for a no-cost minor-league signing.
McPherson was once seen as a part of the Pirates' future, but he suffered an injury-plagued season and underwent Tommy John surgery in July, so he won't be a factor until midseason. It wouldn't shock me if he cleared waivers and ended up back with the Bucs.
One more thing to keep in mind with Decker and Mikolas: This is a time of year when there's a lot of roster maneuvering, and just because the Pirates add someone to the roster right now doesn't mean they'll ever play for the Bucs, or even that they'll still be there in Spring Training. Last year around this time, the Pirates acquired Clint Robinson and Vin Mazzaro in a deal very similar to the Decker/Mikolas trade, and they also dealt for pitcher Zach Stewart from the Red Sox. Only one of those three guys ever played a game in the Pirates' system.