Today, the AJC’s Jeff Schultz tells us that the Braves sole trade dealine move — a straight-up swap of 1B Casey Kotchman for 1B Adam LaRoche — is about 2010.
But he never tells us how in the world dealing Kotchman for LaRoche will make the Braves better in 2010. And for the love of me I can’t figure it out.
Schultz says, in his column titled “Message Heard: Welcome to the 2010 season”:
Wren hasn’t given up on 2009. But 2010 ranks as a higher priority.
Two weeks ago, Chipper Jones said that while it was clear the front office had made improvements to the roster, “we’ve got our eyes toward next year and the year after, and whatever comes this year is gravy.”
Wren has never hid from that perception.
But the reality is LaRoche won’t play for the Braves in 2010 unless the team offers him arbitration and he accepts. And even if LaRoche does play for the Braves in 2010, he isn’t an upgrade over Kotchman, who is a better defensive 1B. In fact, the two are about equal — both represent about one win over replacement.
At least Kotchman would have been the less expensive option. He’s only scheduled to make $4-5MM in 2010, while LaRoche will probably earn closer to $7MM.
Maybe the Braves are planning to cut ties with LaRoche after this season and pursue a free agent 1B? If so, they’ll be able to choose from a glamorous list that includes 38-year-old Carlos Delgado, Nick Johnson, or Chad Tracy.
Maybe the Braves are planning to promote a minor leaguer? The organization’s only decent 1B prospect is Freddie Freeman, who hits for average and has shown some power, but who has only played 23 game at Double-A and doesn’t figure to be ready for the bigs by March.
Maybe the Braves are going to get creative and trade for a 1B?
Maybe. But as things stand now, it’s not clear how the LaRoche trade will help the Braves in 2010.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that it’s possible that LaRoche will really rake in the next two months and that he’ll qualify as a Type B free agent. If that happens and the Braves offer him arbitration and he decides not to return and signs elsewhere, then the Braves will get a supplementary draft pick between the first and second rounds of next year’s draft. But that’s several big ifs, and it still doesn’t change the fact that LaRoche is unlikely to make the Braves any better in 2010.
UPDATE #2: Last night I Tweeted Schultz and asked him, “How does the LaRoche trade help the Braves in 2010?” The response: “SchultzAJC@umpbump It doesn’t because chances are he won’t be re-signed. Trade was about 2009 but effort to improve team deal for 09 was minimal.” OK. But if 2010 really is the priority, why trade away a 1B who was signed relatively cheaply through next season for a guy who will be a free agent at the end of 2009?
FINAL UPDATE: I Tweeted Schultz and asked him, “So who will play 1B for the Braves in 2010?” He responded, “Ryan Howard. … Hey, a guy can dream. … Seriously, I think it depends on who corner outfielders are.”