Too Late – The Trigger is Pulled

Bucco Blog heard yesterday that a pending deal for Adam LaRoche was in the works and published our article asking Littlefield to not pull the trigger too quickly.

But it looks like he has.

The three-team swap between the Yankees, Braves, and Pirates is now said by one source to be nearly complete as all sides work on minor issues.

The Pirates will end up with LaRoche.

I say that gently because there are a few versions floating.. one that involves the Angels from one source and two versions that involves the Braves from two separate sources – one of which is the original source we inititally broke the LaRoche deal at the GM meetings to you with. There is also a straightup Pirates/Yankees version from one source that I place little credibility in.

However, since the Pirates recently asked for, and reviewed, LaRoche’s medicals, we have to assume this deal is with the Braves and our original source tonight is the correct one. No matter which version is correct, Gonzalez will be a Yankee if he passes a physical.

For now, it seems LaRoche will be a Pirate by Christmas, Gonzalez will be a Yankee, and Cabrera a Brave along with at least a second yet unidentified Pirate.

More as I hear it.

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UPDATE 1:11 am Saturday morning: A few people have emailed me that WPXI in Pittsburgh reported last night that Mike Gonzalez cancelled an appearance at a baseball clinic in Texas Friday to take his physical for the Yankees.

More as it becomes available.

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UPDATE 11:00 am Saturday morning: There is a conflicting report emailed to me that has surfaced on the Pirates unofficial message board at pirateball.com where a well known poster claims to have emailed the Post-Gazette’s beat writer last night, who told him:

"I spoke with Gonzalez by phone Friday night for nearly a half-hour, when he called me back for an interview on his health status that I was seeking for the Sunday Hot Stove notebook. The only physical he took was the one Dec. 11 in Pittsburgh, and he has heard from no one regarding anything having to do with a trade, including the Pirates. Somebody else emailed me about something related to the Yankees giving Gonzalez a physical. Said they heard it on TV. Nothing to it."

Considering the Post-Gazette didn’t even report the Pirates interest in LaRoche until December 5th – a week after Bucco Blog revealed the Pirates and Braves were talking and a full week or so after the GM meetings – I’m not too surprised.

Nor would I be surprised that Mike Gonzalez, the target of the deal, wouldn’t reveal anything to that beat reporter *if* it was indeed happening. The Pirates policy from the front office to the ball boys is to not discuss trades.

For now, the fact that my initial source was dead on and the fact WPXI in Pittsburgh both hit the airwaves about the same time – with the same info – means something is going on. But since I’m a blogger without a press credential, all I can do is speculate from what I am hearing from the sources. Who knows, maybe it is more posturing? We’ll know for sure in a couple of days.

34 Comments

This is a terrible deal for the Braves. Melky Cabrera and a throw in Pirate for Adam LaRoche? That’s terrible. Laroche was one of the NL’s better first basemen last year. Cabrera is okay. He’s nothing special. If he didn’t play in NY no one would know who he is. Ryan Langerhans is as good a bet in 07 as Cabrera. The Braves would be better off cutting the Yakees out and getting Gonzalez themselves.

Hold on now.. we don’t know who all is in the deal.. only that Gonzo will be a Yankee and LaRoche probably a Pirate. Wait till it is released. :))

I’ll wait. But the Braves better be getting more than Cabrera and Castillo. Cabrera should be a secondary player in a LaRoche trade and Castillo should be a throw in. The main prize of the deal for the Braves better be something better.

I’ve mentioned before here I think many Braves fans overrate LaRoche. His breakout season was the result of batting deep in the lineup and opposing pitchers having to throw him good pitches. That won’t happen in Pittsburgh because he’ll be batting behind Bay – 5th, I assume.
His D is great, his ISO great, but his great ISO is the direct result of not being a contact hitter and being a 23% k-rate guy.

He’ll be a .275/.320/.420 hitter in Pittsburgh behind Bay *if* he’s lucky. That’s my guess.

Oh Man, Laroche like jake has been saying is bad fit. I hope Angels are in the deal if we could get a Kotchman/Aybar or Willits deal it would benefit us more. Isn’t like one reason Atlanta is wanting to get rid of LaRoche is that basically he’s a headcase (Milton Bradley type personality) and he was called out by Smoltz last year on covering first base late on some plays. Melky is so available cause the Yankees have better in the minors in Jose Tabata career .380 obp man with a great arm , excellent d and can play lf,cf,rf and he’s 18 and will be AAA to start the season. Jose Tabata and Claggett for Gonzalez deal would have been much better.

LaRoche is not overrated. You watch him every day and you see that. It’s always been about consistancy for him. He has a very mechanical swing and needs consistant playing time to keep all the parts working. When he was platooning with Franco and this year with Jordan he just couldn’t keep a hot streak going. When Jordan went down (and Adam also went on ADHD medication) Adam just went nuts. When you watched him hit he was just all over everything. He’s always been streaky. He’s Pujols when he’s hot and terrible when he’s cold (K’s all the time when he’s cold, probably the source of a lot of the Ks). Consistant playing time helped him extend the hot streaks and minimize the cold. The swing is unique but when the bat is going through the zone it’s as perfect as it gets.
The power is legit. He has monster power. 40 HR power. He’ll probably never hit 40 but the power’s there. He hits the ball farther than any Brave.

Finally, he’s not overrated by Braves fans. He was one of the most crucified Braves over the past couple years by the fans. He’s had to earn every fan. I don’t want to trade Adam. He’s the fist slugging first baseman we’ve had since Galaragga. But if we have to trade him, we need to get more than Cabrera and an unnamed Pirate (unless that’s a heck of a Pirate).

LaRoche isn’t a head case. He had one incident where he failed to hustle to the bag and that’s been overblown. Andruw Jones was pulled from a game by Cox for not hustling once and no one would call him a head case. LaRoche is a quiet professional who is well liked in the clubhouse. Headcase is not the word for him.

I agree with Jake though i think you wait until January to make this deal, LaRoche trade value was dropping and was dropping daily. You might get LaRoche cheaper i think just ploy to try to sell more buccofest plans. LaRoche at pnc will probably be a .270 25hr 80rbi guy.

Yeah – I didn’t even mention his streakiness which is another worry because our entire roster is streaky for the most part except for Sanchez. When one peas they all pea and we can mash with anybody. But if nobody has to go, the lineup looks worse than A ball teams.
To be quite honest, I like LaRoche at 1B better than I like Nady at 1B so I’m happy with that part of the deal. But I have said over and over we are selling Gonzo short and he’d be better staying with us in 2007 to raise his value.

But Littlefield knows Gonzo and his arm and walk rate history.. he’s the one pulling the trigger.. it’s his risk.

man Pirates7, if LaRoche hits 25 I’d be tickled to death. I don’t have him that high.. I have him in 2007 with the Pirates at 16 and a 26% k-rate to boot. Starting to sound like Adam Dunn, huh?
If he hits 25 he should be a 100 rbi guy, I would guess. Boy, if I thought he’d drive in 100 I’d tossed Maholm at them too along time ago. :)

From what the writers are saying on the Braves end, the Braves didn’t go into the offseason wanting to deal LaRoche. The interest in him was so intent that the Braves haven’t been able to help but listen. There is a minimum value. The Braves would be perfectly happy just pocketing him. The Braves love LaRoche. He’s one of Cox’s favorites. Also, don’t think for a second that the Pirates are the only team interested. The Angels and O’s have been linked in deals. The Pirates can’t just low-ball and wait it out. The Braves wont trade LaRoche unless it makes them a better team. At least I hope they want. I don’t want another Jermaine Dye deal.

The one guy i wanted for us to acquire and that was James Loney from the Dodgers, Loney has tremendous upside .901 ops in shortened at bats (i think 132) with Dodgers plays a good first base and runs the bases well tremendous speed for a big guy.

Adam could hit 25 in Pitt easy. The distance of the walls isn’t an obstacle for him. When he hits one, you know it. The ball doesn’t travel well to dead right at Turner Field and LaRoche launched a ton out there. Adam hit 32 HRs in under 500 ABs. Give him 550+ and he hits 30 in Pitt. I also don’t buy the lineup stuff. LaRoche hit behind Francoeur a lot with the LF platoon hitting behind him. So he neither hit behind a high OBP (quite the contrary) guy nor hit in front of a terror.

LaRoche a career .300 hitter at pnc (6 for 20, 2 homers, 3 rbi’s) .364 obp, 1.064 ops. Oh well i guess sediment with this deal would be Littlefield didn’t pull an Aramis for Bobby Hill PT.2.

Keep doing what your doing Jose Bautista , .291 avg, .439 obp in 44 games, 9 doubles, 4 homers, 21 rbi’s. hopefully it carries over to the 2007 season.

Don’t underestimate Melky,he will be the real deal. He already hits, hits in the clutch, is a selective player with a keen eye that belies his age. He’s a contact hitter with a great bb/k ratio who doesn’t change or rattle in the late innings, an intangible that can’t be measured, he can play all of positions well with a cannon arm and runs well with instincts.Critics will point to his lack of homers but we saw his alley power and know that he is no judy and punch hitter rather his power will develop as he matures. A respected writer who is unbiased sees Cabrera developing into a Beltran or Reggie Smith of LAD fame. The Yanks fans do not want to see Melky leave because we were a much better team with him in the lineup and we saw what he is capable of doing for many years. Gonzalez better be good and healthy or else he’ll hear it. To all you Atlanta fans, your GM knows what he is doing and he made out well. In less than three years, it will become apparent that Melky was the best player moved here and you’ll be praising JS for seeing a 5 tool player while we curse Cash. Hope this trade falls apart.

Cabrera is the real deal.
Baseball Prospectus on Melky Cabrera:

But the best solution here is to find a way to keep Melky Cabrera in the lineup. The Yankees would appear to be hellbent on making sure that Jason Giambi doesn’t see any time at first base, a decision which is defensible, but they could facilitate this by keeping Giambi at DH, moving Hideki Matsui to first base, and going with a Cabrera/Damon/Abreu outfield. I realize that last year’s experiment with playing Gary Sheffield at first did not work out particularly well, but with Matusi, they’d have a whole off-season to prepare.

Besides that, this alternative costs absolutely nothing, and ensures that there is no hiccup in Melky Cabrera’s development. Cabrera’s ‘07 PECOTA might not look like much, but he held his own in the majors last year at age 21, and PECOTA identifies some very favorable comparables like Carlos Beltran, Reggie Smith, and even Tony Gwynn. Okay, so it also finds Alfredo Griffin, Dion James, and Junior Felix, but the point is there’s a positive information externality in learning how Cabrera develops, enough to offset some of the uncertainty of seeing how Matsui takes to first base. It’s not out of the question that he could pull a Robinson Cano on the league next year, which would provide a solution for many years to come.

Of course, the Yankees could aim a little bigger, by bringing in a player like Aubrey Huff or Richie Sexson, but Cabrera sets the bar higher than you’d think. Indeed, he is the rarest of commodities in the Bronx: an underhyped Yankee.

Thanks to BuccoBoy over at Unofficial Pirates Board.

Here’s my research on his comparisons:

Beltran at 22: 22 HR, 108 RBI, 27 SB, .337 OBP, .454 SLG
Does that not constitute power? If Cabrera is as good as Beltran was at 22, wow. Oh, and Cabrera has a higher OBP than Beltran did. And he had a higher doubles per at-bat ratio. Beltran had 27 in 663. Cabrera had 26 in 460.

Smith at 22: 15, 61, 16, .315, .389
Cabrera is already almost in that neighborhood. Already higer in OBP and SLG. Oh, and this is Melky at 21, and he played in 130 games. Smith played in 158 that year.

Gwynn at 22: 1, 18, 8, .337, .389
Gwynn played in 54 games with 190 at-bats. Cabrera was better at 21 than Tony Gwynn was at 22.

Let us compare him to Johnny Damon at 22 for a minute.

Damon at 22: 6, 50, 25, .313, .368
Are you seeing a theme here? Cabrera is as good as all of these players, if not better than them, and a year younger. The only one that showed better numbers than Cabrera at 21 was Beltran at 22. Cabrera could bust out in 2007.

Carl Crawford at 22: 11, 55, 59, .331, .450
Alfonso Soriano at 25: 18, 73, 43, .304, .432
Torii Hunter at 23: 9, 35, 10, .309, .380

Just a few extra comparisons.

Melky may not develop into a power hitter immediately, but he may develop into one down the road. He plays great defense, including great plays such as robbing Manny Ramirez of a home run and tying for the league lead in outfield assists with 12 (tied with Craig Monroe from Detroit).

Melky Cabrera can turn a fastball into a home run. August 6th, against the Orioles. Turned on an 89 mile per hour fastball. Cabrera can also turn an 80 MPH breaking ball into a line drive shot, like he did against Chicago on August 9th. He then turned an 65 MPH breaking ball into a deep long home run on August 10th.

Oh, and trust me, he has great arm strength. He delivered the ball with plenty of time for Posada to tag out Joe Crede. 2 seconds ahead.

Trust me Atlanta, you would LOVE Melky Cabrera. He could be your Jones replacement.

Well that about sums it up, can’t believe that Atlanta fans are lamenting that Melky is all they got and that makes it all the worse. They haven’t see him play and what a total package he is.Why we are so hot for Gonzalez boggles me,his control issues will be a big problem in NY, isn’t that why fans and Torre don’t trust Farnsworth. I can’t imagine Torre having a long lease when the kid puts a couple on via walks.Pirates should have taken Cabrera straight up instead of La Roche but the Yanks are the loser here.

I think what Braves fans are worried about is this:
http://yankeefan.blogspot.com/2006/10/melkys-defense-by-week.html

Melky is not the best at running routes and while he has an arm, he doesn’t know where the ball is going half the time when he uncorks a throw. But he’s just a kid.. he’ll get better and better.

I love the guys bat and he makes a great 4th OF, utility guy while he gets his game down. By the time he’s 27 he could be something unbelievable.

It all depends who else is in this deal.. and *if* it is even with the Braves as I said above.

Depending on who you listen to all of the three major parts in this proposed deal will be either the second coming or complete duds. But what scares me from the pirates point of view is who the second throw in is? If it is Castillo it won’t be the yankees being the losers it will be Littlefield getting out played by Cashman and Schuerholz.

WOW! Everything a fine baseball blog should be! A large hand of thanks to all y’all posting above! Looks like all y’all are ahead of the Georgia/Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports writers on this big trade: http://www.ajc.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/ajc/braves/entries/2006/12/17/laroche_rumors.html
The more I read about Milk-man Cabrera, the more I like this trade. Merry Christmas!

Braves Fans should like the deal they get a potential star in Melky Cabrera , (I still like Jose Tabata more) and possibly Jose Castillo or Nate McLouth also and get 2 guys with less service time and will make less money then LaRoche 3 million(Projected Arbitration). If your a Pirate Fan you hope LaRoche continues to improve he’s 27 years old now, you hope he doesn’t regress coming off a career year. I wonder if nady splits time with Jose Bautista in RF that would be the logical place for Jose cause Nady D leaves less to be desired. Littlefield should have waited longer or see if James Loney was available.

I meant they get 2 guys with less service time

Per Baseball America:
“(Cabrera)’s filled in nicely for the Yankees, but on a good team he’s more of a fourth outfielder. I don’t think he’s a good center fielder, and I don’t think he’ll hit with enough power as a corner outfielder. If he’s an everyday player for the Yankees in three or four years, I’ll be stunned.”

Also, it’s not like he boasts amazing success in the minors. If anything you have to be worried about him playing over his head Charles Thomas like. And the Beltran comparisons are silly. He doesn’t have Beltran’s speed, power, or defense. Not even close. I could see him being a poor man’s Reggie Smith. He wont have the power of Smith, nor will he come close to getting on bast like Smith and definately not like Gwynn. His skill set may compare to these guys but it’s no where close to being as good. Cabrera is a longshot to be anything more than an average regular. Even if you think he’s better than I do he’s still too great a risk to trade a 30+ HR guy for.

Cabrera’s age isn’t that big of a deal. His ceiling is and it isn’t high enough to justify this deal. He’s limited to the amount maturation will help him.

And the Braves should get another player for taking Jose Castillo off the Pirate’s hands. I honestly can’t think of one reason why that guy has a job. Terrible OBP, poor SLG, shoddy defense. I’d sooner make a deal where the Braves didn’t get another player than to get him.

For Pirate, I read that Yankeefan blogspot and consider it worthless. What it doesn’t tell you is that the LF-CF in Yankee stadium is expansive or that Damon was able to reposition himself straightaway when Melky was in the game. I saw every game and I can tell you straightout that we were a much better D team with Melky rather than Matsui who we all like. Matsui being the consumate pro knows it also and that is why he offered to play first. Damon just finished saying that he’ll move to first to get Melky in the field.Balls in the gaps that previously reached the wall were now cut off. Opp. doubles became singles and runners at all bases stoped trying to advance as word of Melky’s arm got around the league. All Yank fans remember his game saving catch over the wall agaisnt Boston but in another game, he caught a long fly ball that was stung with his back to the field, crashed into the wall turned around and almost threw out a runner at first on a laser straight to first. The throw had to be 300-350 feet on a line. Two friends called moments later in disbelief at this kid’s arm. If he’s gone, you got a four tool player who will add the fifth shortly. Trust me, anyway who watched alot of NYY BB this past year doesn’t like this move.

Braves fans loved Charles Thomas two years ago. He came up and was a force in the playoff run. He played amazing defense, he ran very well, he got on base well, and even flashed a good bit of pop. The truth was that he was playing over his head. Cabrera has had one decent year and his minor league pedigree isn’t great. Before I go dealing a first baseman who just finished with an OPS over .900, I want assurances that the guy I trade for isn’t going to pull a Charles Thomas. I want someone established or with a minor league track record that shows his success may be more than a fluke.

Look at Jose Castillo numbers in May, the potential is there for him to hit and hit somemore, 2 big things with him last year – 1. Shape he came to Pirates in. He was bulked up cause he knew he was in his first year of arbitration and he wanted to put up big numbers power wise so he could get $$$ raise. – 2. Consistency with Jose, he can hit when he hits to right and right center field, this kinda ties in with reason #1 but the potential is there with Jose the more plate discipline he gets and the older he gets.

And the highest OPS Castillo had outside of May was .704! You can look at any player’s stats in one great month and extol on his potential. Matt Diaz had an OPS of 1.092 in August, does he have the potential of being another Manny? No. You have to do it consistiantly. One month proves nothing. LaRoche broke 1.000 in July and August and broke .900 in May. That shows a heck of a lot more.
Also, Castillo’s OPS after the break was an amazingly poor .544. The Braves could put light hitting Tony Pena Jr in there and he’d do better than that and play gold glove defense. The Braves have better options on the roster in Martin Prado and especially Kelly Johnson. If Kelly can prove he can handle second defensively (something Castillo hasn’t even proved) then he’ll be a fantastic second baseman. All Star quality.

Gods Gift, Like i mentioned earlier Jose was swinging for the fences that’s why the low ops he learned his lesson i would believe after last years 6 for 67 in september. He would be a nice player for bravos he can play, 3b, 2b, cf, rf. He has played the outfield spots in winter ball.

So Castillo is a guy that once you fix his plate discipline, plate approach, and defense might be a solid second baseman? That’s a lot to fix without a very high reward at the end. If so much as one of those areas doesn’t improve then he’ll bust. If the Braves were the Royals or Devil Rays then they might try to fix Castillo but not a team that’s trying to reload for a playoff run.
There are some things about this deal that just don’t make sense. First off, Braves GM John Schuerholz has repeatedly said his number 1 goal this offseason is to improve the pitching. Starters are hard to come by right now so he’s been targeting bullpen arms. And now he’s willing to pass on one of the premier lefty relievers in the game to get Melky Cabrera? I can’t see that. If the Braves get Scott Procter in the deal, then maybe it makes sense. The Braves get pitching in a guy JS has a man crush on.

Secondly, Nate Mclouth makes no sense as the throw in. If the Braves get Cabrera then the outfield is full. The Braves have a ton of 4th outfielders right now. On the 40 man right now that can play outfield are Ryan Langerhans (perfect 4th outfielder), Matt Diaz, Gregor Blanco, TJ Bohn, Chris Woodward, Kelly Johnson, and some other less likely guys. So if the Braves get Cabrera then that precludes the need for McLouth.

Thirdly, Castillo is in no way a fit for Atlanta. He’s got some serious problems that need ironing out before he’s even an average second baseman. Martin Prado is as good a bet offensively right now as Castillo and he’s a better defender. But the guy most Braves fans want to see at second is Kelly Johnson. He blows Castillo out of the water in offensive potential. The only question is defense and that shouldn’t be a problem. Johnson was originally a shortstop so the infield isn’t foreign to him. And he’s working with Glen Hubbard at second. That’s the man who turned Marcus Giles from a butcher at second into an above average defender. As one scout said, “If he could do that with Giles, he could make Johnson a gold glover.” I can’t see the Braves actually thinking that Castillo is a better option than what they already have. They also just signed Chris Woodward as the utility IF/OF so they wouldn’t have a spot for Castillo there either.

As mentioned, there are a lot of rumors running around so maybe the deal is different than what it’s sounding like.

Could there be a 4th team involved in this deal, in the Angels. Since Juan Rivera broke his leg in a winter ball game could they be looking for a little insurance maybe a Xavier Nady. Angels have been rumored to be floating around the situation.

There are a ton of Braves fans, including me, that would strongly prefer to see LaRoche in the Braves lineup in April rather than trade him for anybody mentioned so far. He is anything but a head-case. He has ADD and wasn’t taking his medicine for a while when the sluggish play at first happened. He started taking his medicine and immediately turned his season around. He originally made the Braves team a few years ago because of his exceptional defensive play.

GM Schuerholz and Bobby Cox have both said pitching is their off-season priority. Gonzales fits that stated priority but they obviously have to get something of quality, either pitching, 2nd, or OF to make the deal. Castillo and these other guys mentioned won’t do it today or in March. If Littlefield wants LaRoche, a serious offensive and defensive contributor with no injury/clubhouse/head problems, he’s going to have to fork up a 4/5 starter or a big-time prospect.

I actually hope Littlefield or other GMs after La Roche don’t pull the trigger. He’s a big-time budding star, 3 years under control, and a major reason why the Braves had the best offense in the NL last year and should again this year. It also should be mentioned that he makes the other infielders better with his glove.

This is all a fantasy

Wow, White Sox and Rangers pulling it off- McCarthy, and prospect for Danks, Masset, and Rasner looks like the White Sox are loading up the pen with arms- danks, and masset to join sisco.

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