Red Sox get LaRoche from Pirates for pair of prospects

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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.

2017 Preview: Chicago White Sox

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.

After a couple of years of an all-in approach with a core of Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Adam Eaton and friends, Rick Hahn and the White Sox finally decided to tear it all down. And they tore it all down pretty productively, actually, dealing Sale and Eaton for a boatload of prospects, leading with Yoan Moncada, who has hit .287/.395/.480 with 23 home runs, 100 RBI and 94 stolen bases in 187 minor league games.

They also picked up righthander Michael Kopech who hits triple digits on the regular, one-time top prospect and still-promising Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning. They all join existing young talent like Tim Anderson, Carlos Rodon, Zack Collins, Carson Fulmer and Alec Hansen. The system, she is stocked.

 

In addition to all that new talent, the Sox have a new manager in Rick Renteria. What he’ll have to work with at the big league level is somewhat spotty, however, and could change pretty radically as the season wears on.

Still in house: Carols Quintana, Frazier, Cabrera and David Robertson, all of who are likely on the trading block (we know Quintana is). Hahn will entertain offers for anything not nailed down which, in this case, means anyone over the age of 25 or so. We could give a blow-by-blow of the offense, the pitching and the defense like we normally do here, but if you’re an obsessive White Sox fan you know that stuff already and if you’re not, all you really need to know is that between those inevitable departures and the loss of their ace in Sale and their best position player in Eaton, last year’s 78-wins are gonna seem like a distant memory.

Beyond trading stars for prospects, the White Sox have signaled that they’re in non-compete mode in other ways as well. New in the fold: Derek Holland, Peter Bourjos and Geovany Soto. Veterans who do a task or two well, go about their business and, if they have a super nice year, can get dealt at the deadline. In short, the lifeblood of a rebuild, not the stuff of greatness. There’s nobility in fulfilling that role even if there aren’t a lot of wins to be found in it.

Where are some wins to be found? Jose Abreu had a down year in 2016 and could be better this year. Both Holland and James Shields are capable of better years than they had last year. Indeed, it’d be close to impossible for Shields to be worse. They’ll have Carlos Rodon, who took a step forward last year and could be poised for a breakout. Quintana and company will be around until July most likely before they’re traded and before Hahn begins to call young dudes up for second half cups of coffee.

And that’s what this season is about, really. The cups of coffee. Seeing what the Sox have in their young talent, particularly Moncada, who has little left to prove in the minors, even if he spends some more time there and Rodon, who is already a key part of the big club. They may lose just as many games or more than they lost the past couple of seasons, but they’ll do it with more interesting players who fans can imagine being better in a White Sox uniform one day. And, heck, if someone develops a bit more quickly than expected, it could actually lead to good baseball. At least here and there.

Prediction: Fourth place, American League Central.

The Braves cave, a little anyway, on their outside food policy

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On Friday the Atlanta Braves announced a new policy for outside food, prohibiting ticket holders from bringing in their own. This was a reversal of their old policy — and the policies of the majority of teams around the league — which allowe fans to bring in soft-sided coolers with their own food and beverages, at least as long as the beverages were sealed.

The Braves claimed that the policy change was “a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league,” but this was clearly untrue as no other teams are cracking down on outside food like this. If there are new security procedures, everyone else is able to accommodate them without an opportunistic crackdown on fans bringing in PB&J for their toddlers. It seemed more likely that this was a simple cash grab.

Today the Braves have reversed the policy somewhat:

While they’re looking for kudos here, this is likewise an admission that the “security” stuff was bull because, last I checked, security procedures aren’t subject to popular referendum and aren’t changed when people complain. What really happened here, it seems, is the Braves, for the first time in living memory, were called out by the public for their greed and realized that even they have some responsibility to not be jackasses about this sort of thing.

Still, a gallon bag policy is not the same as it was before. You could bring coolers into Turner Field and still can bring them into most parks around the league. But I guess this is better than nothing.