Pirates Finally Get LaRoche


















The Deal
The Braves and Pirates finally completed a deal that had been discussed for months on Friday, with Adam LaRoche heading to Pittsburgh in exchange for Mike Gonzalez. Two prospects also changed hands, with shortstop Brent Lillibridge going to the Braves and outfielder Jamie Romak moving to the Pirates.
The Big Leaguers
LaRoche, 27, had the best season of his three-year big league career in 2006, batting .285/.354/.561 with 32 homers and 90 RBIs. In addition to providing lefthanded power, he’s also a slick fielder at first base. LaRoche is eligible for arbitration and has filed for a $3.7 million salary.

Gonzalez, a 28-year-old lefthander, helps shore up an Atlanta bullpen that was a weakness last year but already was bolstered this offseason by the acquistion of Rafael Soriano. Gonzalez has better stuff that most southpaws, starting with a plus fastball and slider. He went 3-4, 2.17 with 24 saves in 54 games last year. He had a 64-31 K-BB ratio in 54 innings while limiting opponents to a .213 average and one homer. Gonzalez avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $2.35 million contract in January.

The Prospects
Lillibridge, 23, was one of Pittsburgh’s top prospects. A fourth-round pick out of Washington in 2005, he hit a combined .305/.419/.480 with 13 homers, 71 RBIs and 53 steals in 128 games between two Class A stops last year. Lillibridge has the tools to bat at the top of a lineup with a solid bat, gap power, improving plate discipline and plus speed. He has good range and a solid arm at shortstop, and could surface quickly in Atlanta. For more on Lillibridge, please see Chris Kline’s Scout’s View Premium.

Romak, 21, was also a fourth-round pick, out of a Canadian high school in 2003. A raw power hitter, he finally made it to full-season ball in his fourth pro season, batting .247/.369/.471 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 108 games at low Class A Rome in 2006. His power and right-field arm are his two best tools, but he’ll need to make more consistent contact and has below-average range and speed.

Quick Take
The trade makes a lot of sense for both clubs. The Pirates needed a lefty power threat to team with righthanded-hitting Jason Bay, and LaRoche is a huge upgrade over what they had at first base. The Braves are comfortable replacing LaRoche with Scott Thorman, and they added a quality lefty reliever and a solid middle-infield prospect in the bargain.

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