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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.

and

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.”

7 Responses to “LaRoche trade is about 2010?”

  1. The thought is how well both Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward are playing this year in the minors after having good springs that both of them will be with the big league team next year. Freeman is the 1b of the future and Heyward the rightfielder. Hell, we may see Hayward in Right Field before the end of the year down the stretch.

  2. thank you! Good to see I am not the only one confused by the La Roche for Kotchman trade!

  3. Joe, Heyward has been absolutely killing minor league pitching. But he’s an outfielder, and the Braves will probably keep him in the outfield, considering how thin their current OF is. I mean, Atlanta’s outfield has to be the worst in baseball, right?

    Freeman, like I said, has only played 20 games at double-A. Do you really think he’ll be ready to play in the bigs leagues by March? He doesn’t even have plus power. I just don’t see it.

  4. Freeman does have plus power (I’m not exactly sure where you seem to be getting your info from) but he probably won’t be ready before 2011.

    The way this helps the team in 2010 is completely financial. Kotchman is going to be paid around $4-5 mil next season more than likely. That’s a hefty total for the Braves, who are going to have to try and re-sign Rafael Soriano and probably strengthen left field. While they don’t have a true first baseman ready, what they do have is Martin Prado. He’ll be making around the league minimum, is capable of putting up better offensive numbers than Casey Kotchman, and despite playing first base for the first time this season, he has been fantastic defensively there.

    So the Braves had a chance to upgrade the position for the stretch run of ’09 (LaRoche is a notorious second half hitter), upgrade the position in ’09, and save about $3.5-4.5 million bucks.

  5. I guess it all depends on how you define “plus power.” I think Freeman has potential to hit a few dingers. But he’s not going to be Ryan Howard. At least, it doesn’t look that way.

    Speaking of guys who aren’t Ryan Howard, does Prado’s bat really play at 1B? And if the Braves move Prado to first in 2010, does that mean Kelly Johnson gets another crack at 2B?

  6. Does Casey Kotchman’s bat really play at first? You’re making the point in your post that the trade doesn’t make sense because the team gives up Kotchman, who they would’ve controlled next season. Prado hits better than Kotchman and is capable of playing very good defense so at the very least he’s an upgrade over Kotchman at 1/8th the price. For Kelly, the team will give him every shot to succeed and he’s hit and looked MUCH better since coming off the DL.

    As far as Freeman, he hit 18 homers last year with a .205 ISO. The power hasn’t been very good this year, but he’s 6’5″ and nowhere near physically mature. His rap has always been 30-homer power (that is plus power). You don’t have to hit 50 a year to have plus power. He probably has about the same homer power in the future as Heyward does.

  7. You’ve convinced me. Not that Prado will be a great 1B, but that he’s probably a better option than Kotchman, who is more expensive.

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