Sports Outside the Beltway

Pirates get LaRoche from Braves

By Jerry Crasnick

The Pittsburgh Pirates, filling their need for a left-handed power bat, acquired first baseman Adam LaRoche from the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday for lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez, two sources confirmed to could not immediately confirm if other players were involved in the deal. Neither team would comment and an announcement is not yet scheduled.

The Pirates and Braves had been discussing a LaRoche-Gonzalez swap for weeks. Pittsburgh general manager Dave Littlefield was looking to upgrade an offense that ranked last in the National League with a 141 home runs and a .397 slugging percentage.

Gonzalez should help upgrade an Atlanta bullpen that went 25-23 with a 4.39 ERA last season and blew a league-high 29 saves. Bob Wickman saved 18 games after coming over in a July trade with Cleveland, and the Braves picked up reliever Rafael Soriano from Seattle last month in a deal for starter Horacio Ramirez.

The Braves will go into 2007 with a new right side of the infield. Kelly Johnson and Martin Prado are the leading candidates to replace second baseman Marcus Giles, who signed with San Diego when the Braves declined to tender him a contract in December. Scott Thorman, who hit five homers in 128 at-bats with Atlanta last season, could replace LaRoche at first base.

The Pirates also talked to Arizona about a possible deal for Chad Tracy, and had considered Trot Nixon and several other free agents.

LaRoche hit 32 homers and drove in 90 runs last season and finished in a tie for seventh in the National League with a .561 slugging percentage.

Gonzalez went 3-4 with 24 saves and a 2.17 ERA for the Pirates in 2006.

Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN Insider.

This deal works out great for both teams. The Braves get a top notched closer in Gonzalez and the Pirates get the power hitting lefty they’ve been looking for.

I think the Pirates got the best end of this deal even though both teams got what they needed. LaRoche is due to make less than Gonzalez and the Pirates have Solomon Torres ready to step in as the closer. LaRoche is also an incredible defensive firstbaseman.

Gonzalez is an incredibly reliable reliever. The only problem with him is that he is limited to one inning at a time and righties can hit him fairly well. But Gonzalez fits perfectly in the NL East to get Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Delgado, and other lefties out in the eighth.

Good move on both ends but I believe the Braves got the short end by just a little.

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