Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 18, 2007
BASEBALL: LaRoche Checks Out

I don't understand the rationale behind the Braves dealing Adam LaRoche to the Pirates for Mike Gonzalez. I'll admit I'm not that familiar with the minor leaguer they are getting (Brent Lillibridge, a 22-year-old shortstop who has batted .289/.467/.391 in a year and a half in A ball, with 40 doubles, 101 walks and 63 steals in 170 games; those numbers suggest a real prospect, but it's still just A ball and he did strike out 139 times and bat below .300). And I'm also not that familiar with LaRoche's potential replacement, Scott Thorman, except that his minor league numbers suggest a lesser version of LaRoche. And yes, the Braves suffered from a poor bullpen last year, while leading the league in home runs and outscoring the Mets and Dodgers. And yes, Gonzalez is an excellent reliever, with a 2.08 ERA and 6.66 Hits, 0.31 HR and 10.81 K per 9 innings over the past three seasons.

But it's still trading a guy who his 32 home runs and slugged .561 with a .354 OBP as a 26-year-old regular last season for a short reliever, one who has spent more than a month on the DL each of the past two seasons, including missing the end of 2006 with elbow tendinitis, and issued 5.02 walks/9 IP (excluding intentional walks) over those two seasons. The only way this makes sense is if the Braves are really certain that LaRoche not only had a career year last year (which I suspect he did) but that he will not come especially close to those numbers again. Otherwise, they are drastically overrating the value of a single reliever compared to an everyday player.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

David Pinto doth protest...

I'm not a huge LaRoche fan. He had a great year at age 26 after not reaching the majors until age 24, and then being platooned with someone older than me. I don't think he's going to have a long and productive career. However, the Pirates are getting him at his peak, so if he can at least repeat his 2006 performance, he'll improve the team. But he's by no means a savior.

Mike Gonzalez, on the other hand, does two things really well that you like to see in a closer. He strikes out lots of batters and doesn't allow many long balls. He walks a lot of batters, about one every other inning. But he's so tough to hit he can live with that. It looks to me like a very good move for the Braves. They trade someone who should be fairly easy to replace, using his career season to hype his value for a pitcher who possesses two important skills. And John Schuerholz even picks up another player in the bargain! A classic Braves deal.

Posted by: Mr. Furious at January 18, 2007 10:22 AM

Um, that whole thing should be italicized...

Posted by: Mr. Furious at January 18, 2007 10:23 AM

In a nutshell, it's the freaking idiots at the freaking NY offices of freaking Time/AOL that have tied the freaking hands of the freaking Braves during the entire freaking process of selling the team. The payroll is frozen at $80, per the idiots in NY (no offense intended, Crank, it's just their location) for the third straight season. So, while the rest of baseball has enjoyed a resurgence in revenues, the Braves cannot advance beyond what they were mandated to spend in '04.

So, with Laroche due to receive about $3,000,000 after his breakout season, he had to be dealt for a guy making $2.3 million while their existing closer (Wickman) brings in $5,000,000 in what obviously will be his final season with the team (as will it be for Andruw Jones, who will also leave via the 'too expensive to sign' bus).

Yes, $700,000 is enough for the idiots to agree to trade a slugging 1B from a franchise that hasn't had one since Fred McGriff, which was about the time I started over-using the word "freaking".

Posted by: RW at January 18, 2007 10:32 AM

Sorry, should be "$80 million" above.

Posted by: RW at January 18, 2007 10:34 AM

I think the key to this deal is going to be Brent Lillibridge - he could very well be the Braves 2B on Opening Day, and he's VERY promising as a MI prospect.

If that pans out, this is a(nother) steal for the Braves.

Posted by: Geoff at January 18, 2007 10:35 AM

"I think the key to this deal is going to be Brent Lillibridge - he could very well be the Braves 2B on Opening Day, and he's VERY promising as a MI prospect."

Little premature to make him the starter, no? And how high do people expect the Braves payroll to be, they certainly are not one of the top revenue generating teams in baseball?

Accept the fact that you had a (ridiculously) long run of success, a run that saw many of your young players grow in stature and subsequent cost, and now it's rebuilding time.

Don't put the blame in the NY headquarters, put it on the people who refuse to accept this fact and trade for Bob Wickman and his $5 mill salary.

Posted by: SJGMoney at January 18, 2007 11:28 AM

*****And how high do people expect the Braves payroll to be, they certainly are not one of the top revenue generating teams in baseball?******

Yes, the are and have been for a while. Even if they weren't, they're unable to enjoy the growth of baseball revenues over the past three years, as their opponents are.

****Don't put the blame in the NY headquarters****

Don't put the blame for decisions at the feet of those making the decisions? Who gets the blame, Bobby Cox?

Posted by: RW at January 18, 2007 1:10 PM

Nice going, RW, look what you have done: http://adage.com/mediaworks/article?article_id=114384

Posted by: abe at January 18, 2007 4:15 PM

Looks like the master plan to replace LaRoche is Craig Wilson. Probably better than the young guy being discussed, at least in the short term.

Posted by: maddirishman at January 19, 2007 9:24 AM
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