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The LaRoche Loot is Underwhelming

The Boston Red Sox acquired veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday for two minor league prospects: shortstop Argenis Diaz, and right-handed pitcher Hunter Strickland. Make no doubt about it, this was a salary dump by the Pittsburgh Pirates (and another shrewd move by a very smart organization… Boston).

Diaz, the better of the two prospects acquired by Pittsburgh, has the upside of… Jack Wilson. Now, if the Pirates can avoid paying him $6 or $7 million a season, than he might have some value. Truthfully, though, his value is tied solely to his glove, as he’s an above-average defensive player. With the stick, he’s probably going to produce Ramon Vazquez or Adam Everett numbers. Diaz doesn’t hit for power (.058 ISO), he doesn’t hit for average (.253 average in ’09), he doesn’t walk (7.0 BB%) and he doesn’t steal bases (His seven steals this year are a career high). Yes, he’s only 22 but there is really nothing to build on. Not one of those four categories I mentioned has seen an improvement in four pro seasons.

Strickland is a right-handed starter who doesn’t throw overly hard and relies on command and control to succeed. His fastball ranges 87-91 mph and he can add a couple more miles per hour when needed. He also has a slider and changeup. His numbers over the course of the past two seasons have been respectable. In 2009 in low-A, Stickland has allowed 85 hits in 83.1 innings of work, while posting a walk rate of 1.40 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 5.51 K/9. Homers have been a problem with 11 leaving the yard (1.19 HR/9). He has a 3.35 ERA, but a 4.34 FIP.

The truth is that this trade probably won’t help you if your a fantasy baseball manager. Diaz’ bat is about a year away from the Majors, but he does provide some depth if (when) Pittsburgh accepts what Wilson’s true trade value is and he’s dealt in another salary dump. Strickland is a long way away from reaching his ceiling as a middle reliever, or maybe a No. 4 starter.

Where this move helps fantasy owners is in the playing time that this should free up for Steve Pearce in Pittsburgh. It’s about time that he receives a fair (and extended) shot at playing regularly in the Majors. I hope this trade is not a move to free up first base for Garrett Jones, who is significantly playing over his head right now (Hello, Kevin Maas). At the age 28, Jones’ ceiling is limited.