Bucs Trade Gonzalez, Lillibridge for LaRoche, Romak

Adam LaRoche (MLB.com)

The Pirates have apparently traded Mike Gonzalez and an unnamed player for Adam LaRoche. LaRoche just needs to take a physical. We should know soon who the other player is. Seriously, I can barely contain my excitement. Actually, I hardly even know how to feel right now. The last time I felt this good about a Pirates move was when they got Gonzalez back and got Freddy Sanchez in the Jeff Suppan deal. And in this case, I don't even know who the second player is.

UPDATE 5:11 PM: ESPN has a story up that doesn't mention a second player and says it's just LaRoche for Gonzalez. I doubt that's true, given that the Braves acquired Rafael Soriano since refusing a one-for-one trade back in December, but there it is. The Atlanta Journal Constitution (registration required) reports the Post-Gazette's version of the story, but the two papers seem to have sources in common.

UPDATE 5:16 PM: ESPN's story now says it doesn't know whether other players are involved.

UPDATE 5:25 PM: The Trib thinks the unnamed player might be Chris Duffy, although I'm not sure whether they have any reason to think that other than what we already know, which is that the Braves have shown interest in Duffy.

UPDATE 5:45 PM: KDKA reports that it's LaRoche for Gonzalez and a minor league pitcher. If that's the case, this is a fantastic trade - Brad Lincoln hasn't been around yet long enough to be dealt, and other than that, the Pirates don't really have any high-upside pitching prospects in the minors. If this is true, the worst-case scenario is that the Pirates lose Todd Redmond or Dave Davidson or something, which I can definitely live with.

UPDATE 5:52 PM The Pirates' website is reporting the trade, adding that

At least one prospect from each organization is also believed to be involved in the deal.
As long as we're not talking about Andrew McCutchen, Brent Lillibridge or Neil Walker - and I don't see the Bucs trading any of those guys - this sounds too good to be true.

UPDATE 5:59 PM: I feel like I'm playing a game of Clue or something. The Trib:

A source with the Braves indicated it is a four-player trade, with one player from each team still unidentified.

The agents for Pirates outfielder/first baseman Ryan Doumit and centerfielder Chris Duffy said they have not been told their clients are involved in the trade. Pitchers Paul Maholm and Sean Burnett said they are not part of the deal.

As long as it's not Professor Plum in the ballroom with the candlestick, I'm happy so far.

UPDATE 6:06 PM: From Macon.com:

The Atlanta Braves informed first baseman Adam LaRoche early Wednesday afternoon that he has been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for hard-throwing left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez and another player, LaRoche's wife, Jennifer, confirmed a couple of hours later from the family's home in Kansas.

The additional player is most likely Pirates center fielder Chris Duffy, but neither the LaRoches nor Pittsburgh sources were able to confirm that. Industry sources said the player might also be a pitcher.

UPDATE 7:11 PM: Thanks to JimBibbySweat and Matskralc, who tracked this down. Apparently the trade is Gonzalez and Brent Lillibridge for LaRoche and minor-league outfielder Jamie Romak, who played last year in the South Atlantic League. This dampens my enthusiasm a bit, but less than you might think. Unlike Andrew McCutchen, say, Lillibridge is already relatively old - he'll play next year at 23. He seems to have a broad base of skills, but power isn't really one of them. I like Lillibridge a lot and am sorry to lose him, but I see him as someone who can be a solid player, not someone who can be a star. Meanwhile, the Pirates at least have some modicum of infield depth - not a ton, and Lillibridge was their best middle infield prospect, but some.

Romak, meanwhile, isn't just a throw-in. Here are his numbers last year at Rome, in the same league where Lillibridge started the year:

348 AB 26 2B 16 HR 59 BB 102 K .247/.369/.471

Obviously, that needs work, but Romak is two years younger than Lillibridge, and he possesses two skills that most other Pirates prospects lack: the ability to hit the ball hard, and the ability to take a walk. It's not easy to hit that many homers and draw that many walks in Rome, which is a very tough park for pitchers.

The main problems with Romak, at least as far as the Pirates are concerned, are as follows. He's been moved a lot from position to position, so he's probably not good defensively. Also, he's a righty who hit lefties harder than righties last year. Romak's strikeouts are also pretty likely to cause problems as Romak moves up the chain. Unlike with Brad Eldred, though, the walks give me hope that he knows what he's doing at the plate and isn't just a big guy who can hit the ball hard. The plusses for this guy outweigh the minuses so far.

Speaking of being a big guy, Romak is listed at 6'1", 220. Baseball America has this to say:

Doug from Georgia asks: The Braves seem to be high on big Canadians...Scott Thorman, Jamie Romak, Cole Armstrong and Adam Parliament. All of which are at least 6'2 and 220lbs. What does the future hold for these lumberjacks?

Bill Ballew: They're all big boys, no doubt. If they can avoid swinging as if they're trying to cut down a tree with one swing of the ax, they could lose a lot of balls over the fences at the game's highest levels.

That sounds pretty good to me. Obviously, Lillibridge is a lot more polished than Romak at this point, and I'd rather have Lillibridge than Romak. But some of Lillibridge's strengths (speed, ability to handle middle infield positions) are relative strengths for the Bucs' minor league system, while Romak's biggest strength (power) is almost entirely absent elsewhere. Lillibridge's chances of having a big league career are much, much better than Romak's, but Romak may have more upside simply because of his youth. Anyway, to get LaRoche, this is a tradeoff I'm willing to make. The Pirates dealt two players from relative strengths and got two players who address glaring, glaring weaknesses. Lillibridge could burn them, but I still love this deal for the Bucs if this is the form it ends up taking. I'd still have preferred LaRoche for Gonzalez and Duffy, though, and I'm not sure why the Pirates were willing to trade Lillibridge but not Duffy.

Actually, I have a feeling that I'll start to have second thoughts about this deal in a couple hours, but I'll try to keep reminding myself about what we got: a young, left-handed, 30-homer player who finished in the Top 10 in the NL in OPS last year. I like Lillibridge a lot and am more concerned with losing him than with losing Gonzalez, but Lillibridge is still barely out of Class A ball, has never shown much power and has been old for his levels. If the Pirates had some magic plan to compete in 2010, this wouldn't be the best deal, but they don't, so I won't worry too much about this.

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