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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bucs agree to deal for Braves' LaRoche- MLB.com

Finally, the Pirates were able to trade for their most coveted off season treasure. Adam LaRoche will be starting at first base this season for Pittsburgh and he will bring them youth and exceptional offensive production. With more deals like this, the Pirates are on their way to becoming a .500 team.

Pittsburgh sending closer Gonzalez to Atlanta for power hitter
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- After more than a month of speculation, the Pirates and Braves agreed in principle Wednesday to a deal that would send Pittsburgh closer Mike Gonzalez to Atlanta for first baseman Adam LaRoche, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

The deal will include at least one prospect from each team, likely non-roster players at the Class A level.

The trade will not officially be announced until LaRoche and Gonzalez have passed physical examinations with their new teams. Gonzalez will travel to Atlanta for his exam on Thursday morning, when LaRoche is also expected to meet with Pirates team doctors in Pittsburgh.

By acquiring LaRoche, the Pirates will fulfill their primary offseason objective of landing a young, left-handed power bat for the middle of their lineup. LaRoche, 27, batted .285 with 32 home runs, 90 RBIs and an OPS of .915 last year in his third season with the Braves.

Gonzalez, 28, went 3-4 with a 2.17 ERA and converted each of his 24 save opportunities last year in his first season as a closer. There had been some concerns on the Braves' part about Gonzalez's health because the hard-throwing southpaw was sidelined for the final month of the 2006 season by a sore left elbow.

Gonzalez, in a telephone conversation with MLB.com on Wednesday night, said that he felt mixed emotions about the deal.

"Of course I'm very pleased to be going to a great team like the Braves. They're a powerhouse," said Gonzalez. "But then again, I have my teammates in Pittsburgh that I've grown fond of. This is really the only organization I know.

"I'm happy for both sides. The Pirates are going to be a good team in the coming year. But now, I'm going over there and I'm ecstatic to get things going with the Braves."

The Gonzalez-for-LaRoche deal was nearly consummated during the Winter Meetings in December, but the Braves backed out of the trade when the Pirates would not add a second player to go along with Gonzalez. The two teams have remained in contact throughout the past month in an effort to come up with a transaction that was satisfactory for both sides.

There could be a financial motivation behind the Braves' decision to pull the trigger on the deal. On Tuesday, the Pirates signed Gonzalez to a one-year deal worth $2.35 million, thus avoiding the arbitration process. The Braves could not agree to terms with LaRoche before the Tuesday deadline for teams to exchange salary figures with arbitration-eligible players. Atlanta made an offer of $2.8 million to LaRoche, who is seeking $3.7 million.

Romak, 21, could add some much-needed additional power to the Pirates' farm system. The right-handed hitter batted .247 with 26 doubles, two triples, 16 home runs, 68 RBIs and an OPS of .840 in 348 at-bats with Class A Rome last season.

Lillibridge, 23, combined to hit .305 with 13 home runs, 71 RBIs and 53 stolen bases in 2006 while splitting the season between low Class A Hickory and high Class A Lynchburg

Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs


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