Quick hits from Theo Epstein’s conference call about Adam LaRoche:
-The Red Sox had “been in a market for a player who can do some damage against righthanded pitching and can help our team’s depth in the corner infield” Epstein said. The Sox had been batting .257 against righthanders this season, compared to .271 against lefties.
-The Pirates and Sox had been in discussions about LaRoche for months, and the trade was “not in the least bit a reaction” to the Sox’ post-All Star break struggles. The Sox have scored 12 runs the past five games, the low-point of their month-long slump.
-LaRoche will join the Red Sox in Boston on Friday, and at that point the Red Sox will make their corresponding roster move to make room for LaRoche. “It’ll give us time to sort out our healthy bodies from our not-so-healthy ones,” Epstein said. Epstein acknowleded that LaRoche shares some “redundacy” with Mark Kotsay, but also pointed out that Kotsay can play right and centerfield and has value as a pinch hitter. The Sox do not have to make room on the 40-man roster, because shortstop Argenis Diaz was on the 40-man.
-Epstein called giving up Diaz and pitcher Hunter Strickland a “very reasonable acquisition cost,” which will allow the Sox to continue to seek additional trades. Epstein said the Sox want to make more moves before the July 31 deadline.
“I think we plan to be very active in discussions in talking to just about every club out there and persuing every player that can make us better now and in the future,” Epstein said. “Certainly, there are no guarantees. Certainly, we hope to make another move between now and the deadline.”
Epstein has no precise profile in mind for the kind of player he might want to add, although he stuck to wanting to further upgrade the Sox’ position player depth and performance against righthanded pitching.
“Then there’s a second category of player that we’re certainly going to pursue where we can find significant impact on the roster,” Epstein said. “Those trades are hard to make and hard to make without surrendering your entire foundation for the future. Which doesn’t mean you don’t still pursue them.”
Epstein said any trade would be made with “the outlook of the organization” in mind. “It’s not all about 2009. It’s about subsequent years as well.”
-LaRoche’s impressive seconds half splits are “nice,” Epstein said, but they were not a “key component” in the decision. Epstein believes playing at Fenway will help LaRoche, because his natural swing drives the ball to left-centerfield.
-Epstein asked around the Red Sox clubhouse about LaRoche. Jason Bay played with him in Pittsburgh, and John Smoltz played with him in Atlanta. Epstein charaterized LaRoche as a “solid support teammate.”
-Epstein on the offense: “I think we’re a good offensive club having a horrific month. When you go through slumps like this, one, it’s important to assess any areas where you can improve without overreacting, and two, to put in perspective. We have the potential to be really, really good. But we’re not the most prolific offensive club in recent Red Sox history. We certainly have the ability to score enough runs to get where we want to go.”
-When the front office assessed the Red Sox in the AL East race at the break, he considered them even in a three team race despite leading the division by three games. “You look at the underlying performances of the clubs, there was basically nothing separating them,” Epstein said. “We looked at ourselves in a dead-even, three-way race. Five days later, we look it at exactly the same way. We’re in a three-way dead heat.”