Considering the season that Adam LaRoche had for the Chicago White Sox in 2015, there is a burning question. What should the team do assuming LaRoche struggles out of the gate in 2016? Do they have any real options that would replace LaRoche, or would platooning someone at the DH spot be an idea as well?
Here is one idea, carry the current five outfielders the team has right now (Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, J.B. Shuck, Trayce Thompson). Thompson showed the ability to hit lefties, given it was in limited at bats. J.B. Shuck is another option, however he gives the lineup literally zero power. They would play four outfielders every day, with one as the DH.
Assuming the White Sox carry five outfielders, they are going to be in a precarious position. Given the fact that the team would only have two backup infielders outside of LaRoche (assuming they acquire a player that can play both), it will be hard to manage games late (pinch runners, etc).
LaRoche needs to hit, because if he doesn’t the team is going to have a player that has one position in the field (1B), with no other value to the team. Even though he is still a good defender, LaRoche wasn’t brought in just to play the field.
Another option is to carry Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, and Avi Garcia as the team’s starting outfielders, not to mention a player that can play backup in the outfield and infield. In this scenario, one or both backups outfielders would play the infield and outfield.
This minimizes the effect of LaRoche being nothing more than a defensive replacement (if he hits as he did in 2015). LaRoche is a big key to 2016 assuming he is healthy and on the roster due to the fact that he takes up a roster spot with little flexibility to move anywhere but 1B.
Overall, LaRoche was a key problem in the 2015 season. Did Jeff Samardzija not pitching as a #2 starter hurt? Of course, as did Avi Garcia’s lack of power. LaRoche was in the lineup to help protect Jose Abreu, and he failed to do so. LaRoche needs to bounce back at least to average level if the White Sox want to contend in 2016.
Can they be decent without him? Sure they can, however it is going to be an uphill battle without him producing (unless the White Sox move him). The best option might be to find some utility caliber players that the Sox think are MLB level who won’t make it through camp, stick them in the minors and see what happens with LaRoche.
If LaRoche is average to above-average the White Sox can carry five outfielders and not have to worry about this. They could even have a true utility infielder who just plays the other three positions, which would help tremendously when giving starters days off. However, much needs to happen this offseason before any of these plans can be put into motion by the White Sox. The best answer to this is simple; have Adam LaRoche produce. But that won’t be answered until next year.