According to multiple sources, the Pirates have just completed a trade with the Boston Red Sox involving first baseman Adam LaRoche. The Red Sox are returning shortstop Argenis Diaz and right-handed pitcher Hunter Strickland, both in Class AA.
The Pirates will send no cash in the deal to pay the remainder of LaRoche's contract.
The facts about the players:
A 29 year old first baseman. He's notorious for having a slow first half, but being one of the best second half hitters in all of baseball. His career OPS for the second half is .901. He will be a free agent after this season, and the Red Sox are unlikely to re-sign him.
A 22 year old light-hitting shortstop who has a reputation for excellent defense. He was voted the best defensive infielder in the Red Sox organization by Baseball America. Multiple sources say that he is defensively ready for the big leagues right now, and he has the ability to make impossible plays.
The question mark with Diaz is his bat. He's a slap hitter without much power. He rarely strikes out and walks at a reasonable rate, which is a recipe for success long-term, but he has a bit of a noodle bat.
If he can start to make solid contact and get on base by walking, his defense will make up for his power deficiency. A .270/.350/.400 line is both reasonable to expect and an adequate line for a plus-plus defensive shortstop who will likely bat at the bottom of the order. At his age, he has plenty of time for his bat to come around.
According to GM Neal Huntington on the radio broadcast of tonight's game, Diaz will join Class AAA Indianapolis in the Pirates system.
A 20-year-old right hander who has a projectable frame and excellent control. He's able to consistently repeat his delivery, which puts little stress on his arm.
Not a flamethrower, his fastball tops out at 93 MPH. He also throws a change up and a slurve, both of which are unrefined.
Strickland rarely walks a batter. He has 51 strikeouts to only 13 walks in AA this year, along with a 3.35 ERA and 1.18 WHIP through 83.1 innings. He's a groundball pitcher, which is something the Pirates have been building their Major League staff around.
Steve Pearce will join the Pirates tomorrow as the everyday first baseman.
This is likely the last chance for Pearce, who has consistently lit AAA up but struggled in the Majors. If he falters, it's likely that Garrett Jones will take over at first base with Lastings Milledge taking his outfield spot. Jeff Salazar will be sent down to make room for Pearce on the roster.
This is one of those rare times when a trade works perfectly for both teams.
The Red Sox were in need of a first baseman with Mike Lowell injured. This trade gives them the ability to move Kevin Youkilis to third and put Adam LaRoche on first, with Mark Kotsay as the backup corner infielder.
Meanwhile, the Sox traded from two areas of strength that just so happen to be areas of weakness for the Pirates.
Pittsburgh was in desperate need of middle infield talent at the upper level of the minors. With Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson both likely to be either traded or let go in free agency, their replacements for next year looked bleak. Diaz gives them somebody who could step in at SS next year and stay there for years to come.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox had a glut of defensively strong shortstops. With Jed Lowrie in the Majors and similar prospects like Casey Kelly in the minors, Diaz was an expendable player for Boston.
As for Boston's pitching, it goes without saying that they have an area of strength there. I could go on for days about the pitching in the Red Sox system, but instead I'll say this:
Clay Buchholz is considered one of the best pitching prospects in the Majors. He could step in for several teams right now and immediately be a middle of the rotation starter. He could be an ace on some teams. It took multiple injuries for him to crack the rotation in Boston.
The Pirates plan to inject the lower levels of the minors with high school pitching prospects from this year's draft. However, as the saying goes, you can never have too much pitching. Having Strickland thrown into the deal will only help them.