BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates answered a significant question in their outfield on Thursday by acquiring left fielder Corey Dickerson from the Rays in exchange for reliever Daniel Hudson, Minor League infielder Tristan Gray and $1 million, according to a source.
Dickerson will be Pittsburgh's primary left fielder, general manager Neal Huntington said, joining center fielder Starling Marte and right fielder Gregory Polanco in the Bucs' new-look outfield. Dickerson, 28, hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs in 150 games and made the American League All-Star team last season.
"Corey Dickerson adds a quality power threat to our lineup, as evidenced by his 60-plus extra-base hits and 20-plus home runs each of the last two seasons," general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement. "Corey is a driven player who will also add a quality presence to our clubhouse."
The Rays designated Dickerson for assignment on Saturday, and they had until Thursday to trade him. As soon as he became available, the Pirates took notice.
"We thought he would be a good fit for us," Huntington said.
In return, Pittsburgh parted with Hudson, a potential setup man coming off an inconsistent season, along with Gray, who made his professional debut at second base and shortstop in Class A Short-Season ball. Huntington said the Pirates were reluctant to part with Hudson and Gray, their 13th-round Draft pick last year, but felt Dickerson was worth it.
Dickerson enjoyed a dominant first half last season, hitting .312/.355/.548 with 17 homers in 85 games, then slumped to a .241/.282/.408 slash line with 10 homers in 65 second-half games. Still, he is a proven left-handed hitter -- with a career 119 OPS+ -- and an experienced outfielder.
"We look forward to finding out how we can help him get closer to where he was in the first half," Huntington said. "Overall, a very productive player the last few years in the big leagues."
PNC Park's spacious left field may be a challenge for Dickerson, but the Pirates believe he can handle it. He has totaled minus-eight Defensive Runs Saved in his career. But he totaled two Outs Above Average last season, according to Statcast™, with identical 85 percent expected and actual catch rates. Huntington pointed to Dickerson's work last offseason, when he dropped 25 pounds, and cited reports that he's in even better shape this spring.
"We recognize it's a big left field. We've talked repeatedly about wanting two center fielders out there," Huntington said. "But we do think Corey's going to be able to come in and be an offensive weapon for us and play solid defense."
After hitting 51 homers over the past two years for Tampa Bay, Dickerson will add a jolt of left-handed power to a Pittsburgh lineup that ranked 29th in the Majors in home runs last season. The Pirates have added two potential left-handed power bats this offseason, even without signing a Major League free agent, by acquiring Dickerson on Thursday and third baseman Colin Moran from the Astros last month.
The move also bolsters Pittsburgh's bench, which will now include veteran infielder David Freese, super-utility men Sean Rodriguez and Adam Frazier and catcher Elias Diaz. The final spot could go to any number of candidates, including infielders Max Moroff and Jose Osuna and recently acquired outfielders Daniel Nava, Michael Saunders and Bryce Brentz.
"We feel we've given Clint [Hurdle] arguably one of the stronger benches we've had in a while, if not in our time here or his time here, with quality young players behind that in Triple-A," Huntington said.
By trading Hudson, the Pirates also cleared a spot in their crowded young bullpen. There could be as many as five jobs available behind closer Felipe Rivero and setup man George Kontos, and the list of candidates includes recent acquisitions Michael Feliz and Kyle Crick, starters Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow, out-of-options right-hander A.J. Schugel, Rule 5 Draft pick Jordan Milbrath, young relievers Dovydas Neverauskas and Edgar Santana and left-handers Josh Smoker and Jack Leathersich, among others.
"We felt that we were dealing from an area of strength," Huntington said. "The bullpen is the most volatile and most challenging part of a club to build, but we do feel like we have a number of arms that could pitch at the Major League level effectively and could pitch in meaningful roles."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Although Dickerson faded in the second half of 2017 (10 homers, .690 OPS), he was an outstanding fantasy asset prior to the All-Star break (17 homers, .903 OPS) and could help mixed-league squads this year. Owners seeking power in the final rounds can take a chance on Dickerson, who could receive regular playing time for a retooling Pirates club that still has quality bats such as Marte, Polanco and Josh Bell.