Last night, the Pirates made a trade with the Boston Red Sox, acquiring minor league veteran Jeff Larish in exchange for cash considerations. Larish is a 29-year-old left-handed hitter, and he last appeared in the major leagues in 2010, with the Oakland A's. His primary position is first base, though he also has a small amount of experience at third base and in the outfield.
In the middle of the last decade, Larish was thought to be a fairly strong first base prospect. He was seen as one of the best power hitters in college baseball during his sophomore season, in which he hit 18 home runs with Arizona State, but an ill-timed slump in his junior year (possibly affected by a hand injury) damaged his draft stock in 2004, as did the opinion of some scouts that he only had metal bat power and would struggle to hit with wood. His status as a Scott Boras client didn't help, either, and he fell to the 13th round on signability concerns, before ultimately deciding to return to school for his senior season in spite of a $660,000 offer from the Dodgers. His hitting rebounded in his senior season, but college seniors have little leverage, and as a result the Tigers were able to sign him for only $220,000 as a fifth-round pick. Larish breezed through the minors, but seemed to get stuck at AAA, and never managed to make the jump to a full-time role in the majors. In 276 plate appearances over parts of three major league seasons, he's compiled a .224/.308/.380 batting line in the majors, good for an 82 OPS+.
Larish had signed with the Red Sox as a minor league free agent less than two weeks ago, on May 2, so they won't miss him much, and our payment to them was probably fairly nominal. Boston no longer needed Larish as depth after making a trade with the Phillies for outfielder Scott Podsednik last night, so they did the decent thing and found him a job in another organization. I suspect that Larish's status as a former Detroit prospect may have given him a leg up with the former Tigers personnel in our front office, but that's just speculation on my part.
Larish was assigned to Indianapolis, where he will presumably be in the 1B/DH mix for the Indians. In the event that he's called up this year (unlikely, but youneverknow...), his 2012 ZiPS projection (with Boston) was a .224/.308/.391 batting line.
This is a fairly minor transaction in and of itself, but it seems like a move that might have been made in order to set up a larger move in the not-so-distant future. Charlie wrote an opinion piece a few days ago calling for the Pirates to promote the red hot Jake Fox to the big club as a possible part of a solution for the team's offensive woes. With the Indians, Fox had been splitting time between first base, designated hitter, and both outfield corners, and Larish should be capable of filling that role if Fox is indeed about to get the call. It's also possible that the Pirates plan to recall Matt Hague, even though Hague hasn't hit much since his demotion, and Larish would likely prove an adequate substitute for Hague as well. The only real reason to prefer Hague to Fox at this point is that Hague is on the 40-man roster and Fox is not, but given some of Huntington's past statements about the importance of preserving depth, it's not out of the question that the team might prefer to avoid the risk of losing a player on waivers in order to create roster space for Fox.
Update: And now I see that Charlie promoted a FanShot about this last night. Oh well. I'm leaving my post up anyway since I went into a bit more detail, in case anyone's interested.