Tim Benz: Pirates can only hope Lonnie Chisenhall turns out like Corey Dickerson
Corey Dickerson 2.0? Yeah. Maybe.
That appears to be the Pirates’ hope when it comes to signing Lonnie Chisenhall.
Like Dickerson, Chisenhall looks like a guy who hit a “sell by” date with his former club, the Cleveland Indians, even though a worthy bat may still exist.
Chisenhall hit .321 with an OPS of .846 in 29 games last season. He was slowed by calf injuries in both legs.
“It was nothing they could put their finger on as to why it was occurring,” Chisenhall recalled. “The last calf tear was pretty bad. I was fully healthy by the end of the season but unable to participate in enough baseball activities to make it back before the end of the season.
“I’m feeling good now. Made a few tweaks to how I train. (Changed) what I put into my body. A few extra supplements here and there. I think it’s in the rearview mirror.”
His best, full season came in 2014. That’s when Chisenhall hit .280 with 13 homers in 533 plate appearances.
Dickerson was 28 when the Pirates traded for him last year. He impressed with a .300 batting average, an OPS of .804 and a Gold Glove.
Chisenhall is 29. Both are left-handed bats who play the outfield. Both are replacing players who were recently deemed to be cornerstones of the Pirates.
Dickerson jumped into left field when Starling Marte moved to center after Andrew McCutchen was dealt to San Francisco.
The goal appears to have Chisenhall play right field while Gregory Polanco recovers from a knee injury.
When Polanco returns, look for Chisenhall to be a left-handed bat off the bench and a platoon outfielder. He may also help in the infield, seeing as he used to play third base.
“The injury is kind of open-ended,” Chisenhall said. “It’ll stay pretty fluid. But if I had to guess, right field early on. Then we’ll play it by ear.”
Chisenhall was drafted by the Pirates in 2006 before Neal Huntington and his staff began their tenure. Chisenhall decided to play at the University of South Carolina instead of signing with the Pirates.
“I look at it like fate,” Chisenhall said. “Pittsburgh stuck their head out first (in free agency), and we were both eager to get something done. That’s actually pretty neat. Things come back around and give you another opportunity. Here we are.”
I think we all know the Pirates weren’t going to go out and get Bryce Harper to play right field. After the Pirates signed no one in free agency last season, I was concerned they were going to go with Jordan Luplow — who got traded to the Indians on Nov. 14 — or any other combination that came to mind to fill the void while Polanco rehabs.
So even though Chisenhall may not be a huge name to join the team, much like when they picked up Dickerson, it’s something.
“That was a great move,” Chisenhall said of the Dickerson signing. “Gold glove. Hitting the way he hit. Hopefully we can catch lightning in a bottle twice.”
Yeah. Hopefully. At $2.75 million — with $3 million in incentives — that shouldn’t be an excuse for the Pirates to stop spending this offseason. They are a team that has the pitching to contend for at least a wild-card berth next season.
But the bats need to be better. The hole in right field and the lack of depth off the bench were two of the team’s most concerning aspects.
Chisenhall isn’t a cure-all. But acquiring him is a step in the right direction.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.