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Red Sox get LaRoche from Pirates for pair of prospects

Jul 22, 2009, 1:29 PM EDT

With the trading deadline now just nine days away the Red Sox have
gotten a head start by acquiring veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche
from the Pirates in exchange for prospects Argenis Diaz and Hunter
Strickland.

LaRoche is an interesting pickup for Boston, because if everyone is
healthy and productive he’ll be a part-time player. However, he also
provides the Red Sox with a backup plan that basically covers three
positions.

He can sub for Kevin Youkilis at first base or David Ortiz at
designated hitter, and can essentially be the backup for Mike Lowell at
third base as well because of Youkilis’ ability to move across the
diamond.

And while not a big name LaRoche has been a solid player in both
Pittsburgh and Atlanta, hitting .269/.338/.486 in 775 career games. His
overall numbers are dragged down by a measly .249/.308/.435 line
against left-handers, but he’s unlikely to face many southpaws in
Boston if Lowell is healthy and is a career .275/.347/.500 hitter
against right-handers.

LaRoche is an impending free agent with about $3 million remaining
on his contract, so Boston is more or less paying that much for an
insurance plan. Most teams can’t afford that luxury, but for the Red
Sox it makes sense and if nothing else he’s a sizable upgrade over Mark
Kotsay (or Aaron Bates and Jeff Bailey). They may also be able to
recoup some of the value given up to acquire LaRoche if he qualifies as
a Type B free agent.

For the Pirates, trading LaRoche is about saving money and cashing
him in before free agency. While a solid player and a sensible pickup
for a contender, LaRoche turns 30 years old in a few months and
certainly didn’t fit into Pittsburgh’s latest rebuilding effort.
Presumably not many teams were hungry for a platoon first baseman with
two months left on his contract, because Diaz and Strickland isn’t
exactly an impressive haul.

Diaz is a slick-fielding shortstop and at 22 years old still has
time to develop further offensively, but has hit just .253/.309/.310 in
76 games at Double-A this year after batting .284/.332/.382 in 110
games between Single-A and Double-A last season. He’s no doubt being
viewed as a potential replacement for Jack Wilson, who may soon be
following LaRoche out of Pittsburgh.

Strickland was an 18th-round pick in 2007 who has a 3.35 ERA and
51/13 K/BB ratio in 83.1 innings at Single-A this season. He’s years
from the majors and doesn’t have a particularly high ceiling, but the
6-foot-5 right-hander throws in the low-90s and certainly looks capable
of developing into an MLB-caliber pitcher if things break right for
him.

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