Some things just go together: chocolate and peanut butter, eggs and bacon, the Atlanta Braves and Adam LaRoche. Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?
Atlanta re-acquired their former first baseman at the trade deadline this year, dealing Casey Kotchman to the Boston Red Sox. LaRoche had been traded to Boston from Pittsburgh just a few days earlier.
Apparently, nobody wants Adam LaRoche. Atlanta should really want him and they should think about paying him some big money now.
The free-agent-to-be could command more money at the end of the season, because he's the best first baseman available on the open market. Atlanta could probably persuade him to trade his free agency for the security of a contract with a team that figures to be very competitive over the next few years.
Yummy, pork chops and apple sauce.
The Braves need a first baseman and there are few free agent options available this year. The next best option is Russell Branyan, who is having a breakout season at the age of 33, meaning LaRoche is the grand prize. LaRoche is just 29 and seems to be reaching his prime years.
LaRoche has averaged 26 home runs, 88 RBI, and a .275 batting average over his previous three seasons, mostly with a lowly Pittsburgh team that probably diminishes his accomplishments. The Braves lineup would presumably give him a better opportunity to put up even more impressive numbers.
Atlanta has a very good first baseman prospect in Freddie Freeman, but he’s only 19-years-old and could use a couple more years of seasoning and development.
Freeman is 6'5" and 220 pounds of natural talent, but few prospects are ready to contribute to a major league team before they are in their early twenties. Two or three more years in the minors should be about right, possibly more if he struggles or experiences any injuries or setbacks.
That leaves the Braves’ first base position open to LaRoche for the next few years, almost as if fate has presented Atlanta and LaRoche this perfect scenario. A three-year contract with an option for a fourth year would give Freeman plenty of time to develop and gives the team an insurance policy if Freeman never reaches his potential, as often happens with prospects.
LaRoche seems to like Atlanta as well.
He had his best season in 2006 with the Braves, smacking 32 homers, knocking in 90 RBI while batting a healthy .284. Since re-joining the Braves almost 30 games ago, he has batted .390 with eight homers and 18 RBI. His only postseason experience was with the Braves in 2004 and 2005, when he batted .320 with two home runs and 10 RBI over eight games.
There seems to be a mutual bonding between LaRoche and Atlanta. Like spaghetti and meat balls.
Perhaps he would give the Braves a discount price, perhaps not. Regardless, the Braves would be better off to giving him a fair offer now rather than getting into a bidding war with another team in the offseason. Otherwise, they may end up with Greg Norton at first base next year.
Atlanta is back on the rise, focusing on their pitching rotation of Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Kenshin Kawakami, Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, and Javier Vasquez.
Their bullpen should be solid with a healthy Rafael Soriano (if they re-sign him) and Mike Gonzalez.
The offense could be the weak link. Kelly Johnson is erratic. Yunel Escobar is solid, but not spectacular. Martin Prado looks promising, but is still inexperienced. Chipper isn’t getting any younger and is injured fairly regularly. Garret Anderson is not the player he used to be. Ryan Church and Matt Diaz are career platoon players.
Nate McLouth and Brian McCann may be the only sure bet for “McOffense” next year, giving the lineup a flavor more like McDonalds than Figo’s.
There is only one Braves player who has hit 20 home runs this year: Adam LaRoche!
Atlanta should act now and make LaRoche very "LaRich."
Braves fans could then sit back and enjoy the palatable experiences of beer and brats, mustard and hot dogs, pretzels and cheese, and the Braves and the playoffs.
Now that sounds absolutely delicious.