Braves reacquire LaRoche from Sox
Atlanta sends Kotchman to Boston in swap of first basemen
ATLANTA -- When Adam LaRoche arrived at Camden Yards on Friday afternoon and was told that he might not need to put his Red Sox uniform on, he placed a call to Chipper Jones to figure out what might be transpiring.
Four phone calls later, Jones and LaRoche found themselves talking about the reality that they'll once again be teammates in Atlanta.
Looking to increase their power potential at first base, the Braves acquired LaRoche and cash considerations from the Red Sox in exchange for Casey Kotchman. This swap of first basemen was completed just before Friday's 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline.
"What we really wanted was to have a bigger bat," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We look at Adam as a guy who can hit 25 to 30 homers a year. He's historically always been a good second-half hitter."
While Kotchman might have finally been showing some signs of power, with four homers in his past 22 games, Atlanta felt more comfortable taking a chance on the belief that this will be yet another season during which LaRoche's second-half offensive numbers will dwarf the ones he produced before the All-Star break.
Dating back to his Major League debut with the Braves in 2004, LaRoche has hit .252 with a .773 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) in the first half and .295 with an .899 OPS in the second half.
On his way to producing a career-best 32 homers for Atlanta in 2006, LaRoche hit .323 with a 1.042 OPS after the All-Star break.
"He can carry teams with his bat in the second half," Braves center fielder Nate McLouth said. "He's done it here, in Pittsburgh and hopefully back here again."
McLouth began this season with LaRoche in Pittsburgh, and now the former Pirates find themselves reunited while attempting to help the Braves make a push toward the postseason.
"He's a good person to be around," McLouth said. "He's a good person to see at the park every day and just a good influence."
This compliment certainly doesn't surprise any of the current Braves who played with LaRoche while he was in Atlanta from 2004-06. The calm, cool and composed first baseman was a popular clubhouse figure, who immediately drew a close bond with both John Smoltz and Jones.
"I know that the guys in the clubhouse are glad to have [LaRoche] back in the fold," Jones said.
This has been a crazy two-week stretch for LaRoche, who was traded by the Pirates to the Red Sox on July 22. Just before that deal was completed, Wren was attempting to bring LaRoche back to Atlanta.
The opportunity arose on Thursday, when Boston grew confident that it was going to land either Cleveland's Victor Martinez or San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez on Friday. When the Sox completed a deal for Martinez, they were able to call the Braves back and complete this swap of defensively-skilled first basemen.
"They're the same player defensively," Jones said. "They're both really slick-fielding first basemen. Enough can't be said about the job that Kotch did defensively here. He didn't make an error the whole time he was here. To have a first baseman you can rely on is very valuable to a defender.
"I've often compared Roachy to J.T. Snow. He's as slick as they come. He's got great hands over there, and he's very fluid. He just looks like a great defender."
While remaining strong at the first-base position, the Braves believe they've strengthened their lineup with yet another proven power producer. LaRoche has hit at least 20 homers each of the past four seasons, and before this month, Kotchman had totaled just four homers in 99 games with Atlanta.
"I think we're getting the power that we want," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
LaRoche comes to the Braves having hit just .200 with two homers and a .320 slugging percentage in his past 27 games. But Wren is confident that the 29-year-old first baseman's track record already provides indication that things will soon turn around.
"When you make a deal, you're looking at all of the splits and all of the historical statistical runs you can get, and Adam is clearly a better second-half player," Wren said. "We experienced that when he played for us and he's continued to do that with Pittsburgh. He's had a long enough of a Major League career now that that trend will probably move forward."
While Kotchman has two more arbitration-eligible seasons, LaRoche will be eligible for free agency at the end of this season.
With Freddie Freeman waiting in the wings and possibly in position to reach the Majors some time during the 2010 season, the Braves likely aren't going to offer LaRoche a multiyear deal at the conclusion of this season.
But they are providing him a chance to play on an everyday basis as he enters free agency and hoping to gain a return courtesy of the type of production he's provided down the stretch throughout his career.
"We didn't make this deal based on what would happen in the future with Adam," Wren said. "We made it purely to finish out this season, and then we'll see where we are."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.