From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "yesterday marked the one-month anniversary of the Atlanta Braves pulling the plug on the [LaRoche-for-Gonzalez trade]." In the same article it repeatedly mentions that the trade still has some legs and both sides are still talking, but that the Braves are driving a hard bargain by asking for more than just Mike Gonzalez in return. But the pressure may be building on the Pirates GM to add the services of Atlanta's left-handed slugging first baseman. Members of the Pittsburgh media have been going on for over a month about the need for someone like LaRoche and now we hear that some players are speaking up as well:
"You can quote me on this," [Pirates] shortstop Jack Wilson said Thursday from his home in Arizona. "Adam LaRoche is a team-changing player."
If that truly is the sentiment from the players then it's no wonder Atlanta GM John Schuerholz is being stubborn in asking for more than the recently injured closer Mike Gonzalez. To get the deal done it looks like the Pirates will have to include one of their young starting pitchers: Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm or Tom Gorzelanny. All of these young arms spent most of last season in the Majors with each of them showing some positives and some growing pains, but any of these guys would be a prospect on the level with Kyle Davies - most of them with more Major League experience than Kyle.
If a young starter from Pittsburgh can be acquired then one of the other rumored moves for an outfielder/leadoff guy would be much more palatable to the Braves as they would be able to trade that young starter along with Salty or Escobar for another bat like Rocco Baldelli or Nick Markakis. Either of these guys would be a big step up in production and defense over Ryan Langerhans or Matt Diaz, and both could also be potential replacements in center field if Andruw Jones departs next year via free agency.
That would likely be a huge net gain for Adam LaRoche - a left-handed closer-type for the bullpen and the leadoff guy/outfielder we've been looking for. Most of this still seems like a pipe dream for the Braves, but with everyday that passes the pressure builds on the Pittsburgh GM to make a move for an impact bat - and like Jack Wilson said, Adam LaRoche is that kind of player. While I've said before that I would be saddened to see LaRoche leave the Braves, the benefit we would get in terms of number of quality players we could get in return far outweighs the loss of LaRoche. Keep in mind too that the Braves organization currently doesn't have an answer at leadoff, or for another arm from the left side of the bullpen, but it does have an answer at first base in Scott Thorman.
But until the time comes when they pull the trigger all we can do is wait and wonder.
In other news and notes:
- Mike Hampton is no longer the highest paid pitcher in the Majors now that the Giants have given Barry Zito $128 million over seven years, reports The Sports Xchange.
- Kelly Johnson continues to work out and improve his skills at second base under the guidance of first-base coach and former second baseman Glenn Hubbard, reports the AJC.
- Also from Sports Xchange, Tim Hudson is working out with weights six days a week, trying to improve his endurance after a second disappointing season with the Braves.
- The 40-year old Brian Jordan is not ready to retire just yet, and has been working out all winter to stay in shape and prove he can still play. While he would like to remain in Atlanta, the Braves have shown no interest in brining him back, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports. That could change if Adam LaRoche is dealt as the Braves may seek a right-handed option at first base to platoon with Scott Thorman.