Adam LaRoche Mystery Team: Elimination Game

ESPN’s Peter Gammons reported that the Pittsburgh Pirates had a better offer on the table for Adam LaRoche, which involved the Pirates picking up salary for LaRoche. Gammons suggests that the Pirates went with the Red Sox offer for financial reasons.

Without knowing the team, it’s hard to say if Gammons is correct. You’d think he’d at least allude to the team with a statement like that.

Dejan Kovacevic responded in the PBC Blog, saying that the deal didn’t involve the Pirates picking up salary, but that the deal was for a marginal prospect, and an exchange of salaries with a major league player also coming in the deal. He also said San Francisco wasn’t the other team.

So who was this other team? Considering LaRoche is only under contract for a little over two months, it has to be a contender. I took every team that is a serious contender, and the Mets, and got this list:

New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
Detroit Tigers
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins
Los Angeles Angels
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
Florida Marlins
New York Mets
St. Louis Cardinals
Chicago Cubs
Houston Astros
Milwaukee Brewers
Los Angeles Dodgers
Colorado Rockies

From that list I checked to see who had a hole at first base (or at DH for AL teams). The remaining teams:

Detroit Tigers
Seattle Mariners
Atlanta Braves

We know that the Tigers had a scout at the game on Tuesday. We also know that the Pirates had a scout at the Tigers/Mariners game on Wednesday. The Pirates also scouted a previous Seattle game.

Some of the bad contracts for those teams (that would equal the $3 M remaining for LaRoche):

Detroit: They’re full of bad contracts. Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, and Nate Robertson are all under contract beyond this year, but Detroit would probably need to pick up a lot of salary.

Seattle: Another team with some bad contracts. Miguel Batista is a possibility, making $9 M this year, and a free agent after the season, although Batista has a 3.23 ERA, so unlikely Seattle would try to deal him. Jose Lopez is another guy whose contract fits, although I can’t see the Mariners trading an affordable 25 year old middle infielder under contract through 2010, with a 2011 option.

Atlanta: Omar Infante matches up financially, but he’s on the DL. That’s about it as far as players who the Braves would actually consider trading.

Without knowing the team with the mystery offer, we’re left to speculation. Simple logic tells us that the team trading for LaRoche, a rental player, is going to be a contender. If they’re a contender, they’re likely not going to be giving up any player that can help them this season.

If the salaries are a wash, that either means the Pirates trade for a one year guy (wouldn’t make sense), or they trade for a guy like Infante or Lopez, with a similar salary to what LaRoche has remaining, but who is under team control beyond the 2009 season (makes a little more sense). I also don’t think a guy like Jose Lopez would be involved, as he’s young, has decent numbers, and is under team control for two more seasons.

So if a major league player was involved, and we’re looking at a salary swap, it’s probably not a player that would play a big impact. I can see how you could make an argument that the Pirates could have gotten a better return with a major league player involved, but odds are the Pirates are getting that player for one season beyond the 2009 season. I’d rather have two prospects, with one of those prospects possessing some great defensive skills at short, and with six years of team control, rather than just one or two.

If I had to guess on a team, it would be either the Tigers or Mariners, and probably Seattle with the recent loss of Adrian Beltre (Russell Branyan could move to third). That doesn’t mean I think they’d give up Jose Lopez for LaRoche though.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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