Sox trade for Adam LaRoche


Leave it to Theo Epstein to wait until I publish my treatise on Hank Blalock to announce that he’s traded for Adam LaRoche of the Pirates. Pittsburgh will pony up some cash, and receive minor league SS Argenis Diaz and P Hunter Strickland in the deal. Now for the obligatory analysis:

What I like about this move:
Adam LaRoche is a decent left-handed bat and should play against right-handers, but when you use him against lefties as well, he becomes merely league average at first. He’s a good line drive hitter (career 20.6%) who’s fairly patient (4.01 pitches/PA in 2009) and knows how to take a walk (11.2% BB rate); he’s also noted as a second-half player, and had a little taste of the playoffs with the Braves way back when. His $7M salary is easily tolerable to Sox ownership, and he will be a free agent after this year. Jason Bay must be happy to get an old teammate back, and that should help him mesh into the clubhouse.

The Red Sox gave up very little value to get LaRoche, and lost no one who could conceivably help us this season. Diaz is a viable prospect but with all the recent SS signings, we have some young shortstops to spare. Watch as Diaz leapfrogs his way into the Majors way too early with the Pirates.

What’s not to like:
This is not really the impact hitter I was hoping for. LaRoche is a career .275/.347/.500 hitter against RHP (.257/.360/.472 this year), but he really struggles against lefties (.249/.308/.435 career, .226/.255/.377in 2009). He strikes out a lot (25.0% the past two years) and he’s off to a rough start this season at .247/.329/.441. Add to that he’s moving from the NL East to the AL East, and you could be looking at some tough times ahead.

To make room, the Sox will either have to lose Mark Kotsay or one of their pitchers; my guess is Kotsay gets the boot. I could see Francona employing a sort of cross-diamond platoon, playing LaRoche/Youkilis at 1B/3B against RHP and Youkilis/Lowell against LHP. Hopefully the constant moving around won’t affect Youk’s play too much.

Summary
My guess is that the Hank Blalock option dried up when Chris Davis swung himself back into the minor leagues. Texas probably isn’t willing to lose his bat anymore. I thinkĀ Dave Cameron has it right; this move doesn’t really have too much upside, but it’s good insurance, just in case.

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