Pittsburgh Pirates Part Ways With Adam LaRoche, Littlefield Era

Andrew Kaufman@akaufman23Senior Analyst IJuly 23, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 09:  Adam LaRoche #25 of the Pittsburgh Pirates bats against the New York Mets on May 9, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Pirates 10-1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The trade of Adam LaRoche—who was dealt to the Boston Red Sox yesterday for two prospects—might officially mark the end of an era in Pittsburgh.

It was LaRoche more than anyone who was supposed to be the linchpin of former Pirate GM Dave Littlefield's master plan—the power-hitting, left-handed clean-up hitter who would fit in perfectly behind Jason Bay, stroking home runs to PNC Park's power alley in right-center.

When LaRoche was acquired from the Atlanta Braves in 2007 for Mike Gonzalez, optimism was as high as it had been in a while in the Steel City. But two-and-a-half years later, LaRoche is gone. So is Bay, the man he was supposed to protect; and Littlefield, the man whose job he was supposed to save.

Tim Williams at BUCCO Fans has a good post up about the "unreasonable expectations" LaRoche faced during his stint with the Pirates, noting that his performance mirrored that of fan-favorite Nate McLouth.

Yet neither player was the kind of player around which good franchises are built. Both were better suited to play the role of complementary part—the roles they will, and do, now play in Boston and Atlanta, respectively.

Yet the returns for the two players were markedly different; Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton, or Jeff Locke would alone represent a far better haul than Argenis Diaz and Hunter Strickland, the two minor leaguers the Pirates received for LaRoche. Rob Neyer refers to the LaRoche trade as a "salary dump."

And that's fine.

I'm not thrilled about the two players the Pirates received—Just because Diaz, who has an OPS of .619 in AA this year, is known as a slick-fielding, light-hitting shortshop does not mean he projects as an adequate replacement for Jack Wilson, who had an .820 OPS in AA at the same age. And while Strickland has performed pretty well thus far in his career, he projects as a reliever at best.

But the truth is the Pirates didn't give up much. LaRoche is an average first baseman and was going to walk at the end of the year, and the Pirates are currently in last place (and at the moment they are better off with the hot-hitting tandem of Garrett Jones and Delwyn Young in first base and right field, anyway. Steve Pearce is a waste of a starting spot—unless Lastings Milledge is working on one or two specific things, he should have been called up instead, and I assume he will join the big club whenever he's ready—but that's another post for another day).

If anything, the Pirates saved $3 million in this deal, which they can put towards beefing up their offers to either Miguel Angel Sano, Freddy Sanchez, or the legion of bonus-demanding draft picks they aim to sign by August 15; and they opened up more at-bats for players such as Jones, Young, Brandon Moss and Milledge.

All in all, it's a sound baseball move as this team prepares for 2010 and beyond.

I used to be a regular on Bleacher Report, but it's been six months since my last article. I'm glad to be back contributing again. I should have quite a few Pirate articles—and hopefully some other stuff, as well—up in the coming weeks.