The Braves and Pirates finally completed the on again, off again LaRoche for Gonzalez deal but the surrounding players were somewhat surprising. It was widely believed that Schuerholz was holding out for a second quality player in the deal. A few of the names included Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, and Chris Duffy. It seems they finally came to an agreement which sent one of the Pirates top prospects, Brent Lillibridge, to Atlanta for a marginal prospect in Jamie Romak.
Since this is a minor league blog I'll cover the minor leaguers involved more than LaRoche and Gonzalez since every other site will have their opinions on those players.Brent Lillibridge
was drafted out of Washington University in 2005 and has been rated as the third best prospect in the Pirates organization by John Sickels.
Strengths: He hit over .300 with an OBP over .400 last year in low-A and high-A, his speed is very good with 53 steals last year, he works the count well as seen with his 87 walks, his defense has been said to be even better than his offense, and being a college player he should advance through the system quickly.
Weaknesses: His power took a somewhat significant hit upon his promotion to high-A. He hit 11 of his 13 home runs in low-A. He has been slightly older than his competition at every level thus far. Other than that he really doesn't have any other weaknesses right now.
Follow this link to see what John Sickels has to say about Lillibridge in his 2007 prospect book: Book Excerpts
Now on to Jamie Romak
, whom the Braves gave up along with LaRoche in exchange for Gonzalez and Lillibridge.
Jamie hasn't gotten much attention as a prospect but is still young (20 years old) and has some power potential. He is sometimes considered a "moneyball" player because he hits for low averages with high OBP's and has power. Last year in Rome he hit .247 with 16 homers and a .369 OBP. He also struck out 102 times to go with his 59 walks. And that's only in 348 at-bats so he needs to cut down on the k's.
Obviously the Braves like Lillibridge a lot because they took the difference between Lillibridge and Romak when they have been wanting major league contributors. The Braves are probably thinking that Lillibridge is pretty close to the majors, given his age while the Pirates are getting the slugger they have been coveting and a young power bat in the minors.
I don't feel comfortable declaring a win for either side in this deal. It seems that both sides are pretty happy with it for the most part and a lot if it depends on a couple of guys in the low minors.