By Chris Mack

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BRADENTON, Florida (93-7 THE FAN) – After spending half of 2017 and most of the month of February without a true third outfielder on a team that once boasted the best young outfield in baseball, the Pirates went and got themselves a left fielder Thursday.

No disrespect to Sean Rodriguez, Jordan Luplow, Bryce Brentz, Michael Saunders, or Adam Frazier – all of whom will still play roles for this team at the Major League level at some point this season – but getting Corey Dickerson in exchange for an aging, overpriced bullpen arm, a minor leaguer, and some cash is a bargain, if not a downright steal.

“He’s done a lot of damage over his career,” assessed General Manager Neal Huntington. “Especially the last two years.”

While his defense in the expanse of PNC Park’s left field will leave something to be desired – and should stir up conversation again of why Gregory Polanco isn’t willing to leave right field – Dickerson has combined for 51 home runs over the last two seasons, and a year ago was offensively comparable with Andrew McCutchen if you subtract some On Base Percentage and add in some Slugging Percentage.

In going out and getting a 29-year old, power hitting outfielder in exchange for Daniel Hudson, Tristan Gray, and $1 million, the Pirates also did something both that they’re often criticized for not doing, as well as perhaps an assuagement of their veteran players’ fears that this team was closer to dismantling and tanking rather than building up and competing. They packaged a prospect and money for an established veteran.

David Freese and Josh Harrison, who each came into Pirate City a week ago with critical remarks for the organization, were encouraged by the move.

“It’s definitely something for us in here to say, ‘OK we’re making moves,’” said Harrison. “I think it’s a pickup that makes our team stronger.”

Assuming Harrison isn’t moved by Huntington before Opening Day it’s also a move that vastly improves a Bucco bench that was sparingly thin at times in 2017. Freese was already ticketed for a bench role, and now should have the younger Frazier watching him and learning how to capitalize on a different set of opportunities.

“I’ve learned from Sean [Rodriguez] since I’ve been up,” said Frazier, “and talking to him and Freese and picking their brain as much as I can.”

It also moves a disappointing and overpriced Daniel Hudson out of what could have been high leverage situations in the bullpen, making room for the young, hard-throwing acquisitions of Michael Feliz and Kyle Crick.

While it’s not a top prospect for a big name at the non-waiver trade deadline – a move Neal Huntington was loathe to make when his team was postseason-bound in 2013, ’14, and ’15 – it was a recent draft pick and cash in exchange for an All-Star with a larger salary than the player(s) moved out.

It was a move not just for the future, but for the present as well. For Pirate fans, at least at the moment, it’s a move that can give them some hope that the light at the end of their post-Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole tunnel may be brightening sooner than expected.

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