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.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.