Thirty-five year-old free agent, Adam LaRoche, may not seem to fit into the Chicago White Sox recent youth movement, but he would be a solid short-term solution as the team’s designated hitter.
A Desert At DH
The Sox traded away their primary designated hitter on August 31st, 2014, when they sent Adam Dunn to the Oakland Athletics. Not only did they lose a DH when they traded Dunn, but they lost a valuable left-handed bat in their lineup protecting Jose Abreu. That trade, along with the retirement of Paul Konerko, has left a void in the White Sox lineup that must be filled, ideally with a left-handed bat.
Victor Martinez, who finished 2nd in AL MVP voting this season, was rumored to be a free agent target the White Sox would aggressively pursue. However, on Wednesday the Detroit Tigers made good on their promise to resign their DH, according to Jon Heyman at CBS Sports.
So that leaves the White Sox with a few other options to acquire a quality left-handed bat on the free agent market. Melky Cabrera, Nori Aoki, and Adam LaRoche are all possibilities the White Sox may be exploring. Melky Cabrera will be the most expensive option, likely requiring a four-year and $50 million commitment, if reports from Evan Petzold are any indication. Nori Aoki would be a valuable and affordable addition to the outfield, but those defensive skills would be wasted if he were to serve primarily as a DH. He also lacks the power necessary to protect Abreu in the lineup.
That leads us to Adam LaRoche. The former Washington National batted .259 with 26 home runs and 92 RBI in 2014. Compare those numbers to the departed Adam Dunn, who hit .219 with 22 home runs and 64 RBI. Not only that, but LaRoche struck out in only 18.4% of his at-bats, whereas Adam Dunn was called out on strikes in 31.1% of his at-bats. Clearly, LaRoche would be an immediate upgrade at DH and provide Abreu with adequate protection in the lineup.
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Adam LaRoche, who won a gold glove award at first base in 2012 and was nominated again in 2014, would be the perfect defensive substitute and mentor to Jose Abreu. Moving to the American League and not having to play the field everyday would have a positive impact on the aging LaRoche as well, offensively. It would be a win-win situation for Adam and the White Sox.
But he’s too old, you say? LaRoche is one year younger than Victor Martinez, so any fans who were clamoring for the Sox to sign V-Mart, should be open-minded to LaRoche. Paul Konerko, the White Sox beloved former captain, was age thirty-five during the 2011 season, the year he hit .300 with 31 home runs and 105 RBI. Paulie actually made the AL All-Star team that season, and again in 2012 at age thirty-six. Keep in mind, as well, US Cellular Field is a much more hitter-friendly park according to many sources, including Parkfactors.com. The site, which measures each MLB park’s “Park Factor,” awarded Nationals Park a factor of +102. US Cellular Field scored a factor of +125, good enough for second in the entire major leagues. One way to compensate for old father time is moving to a hitter-friendly environment.
He also doesn’t require a long-term investment. Given the draft pick compensation the Nationals would receive as a result of him signing elsewhere, the Sox could likely acquire LaRoche’s services for around $12 million for one year, his salary in 2014. That would be a reasonable short-term investment for a player whose worst year since 2012 would still be an improvement over Adam Dunn. On a completely unrelated note, he can also do this…
Maybe he can hunt down some Tigers while he’s at it. In any case, Adam LaRoche to the White Sox makes sense. The Sox have hinted at their willingness to build around their nucleus in an effort to contend in 2015. The Chicago Tribune’s Colleen Kane reported Kenny Williams was forthright about that fact during the GM meetings in Phoenix this week when he said,
"“I don’t wanna hear anymore talk about rebuilding…We’ve got to start making progress with more wins, and we’re going to have to do what we’ve got to do to get there.”"
What the White Sox have to do is utilize smart short-term solutions to fill holes strategically. Signing Adam LaRoche presents that opportunity. His experience and skill set may be just what the young team needs.
*All advanced stats provided by Fangraphs.com