Thursday, January 14, 2010

Risk/Reward of the Adam LaRoche Signing

Adam LaRoche turned down a 2 year/$17 million dollar offer from the Giants a few weeks back. Today, LaRoche signed a one year deal with the Diamondbacks worth roughly $4-$6 million dollars.

Talk about a costly decision:

The signing -- still pending a physical -- would mean LaRoche becomes the team's everyday first baseman. That moves Conor Jackson to left field and makes Gerardo Parra the club's fourth outfielder.

LaRoche batted .277 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs in 150 games for the Pirates, Red Sox and Braves in 2009. The 30-year-old lefty hitter has notched 20-plus homers in each of his past five seasons -- including 32 with the Braves in '06 -- and sports a career .274 batting average with 136 homers in six seasons in the big leagues.

From the Diamondbacks' perspective, it's easy to like this deal because it offers lots of reward and very little risk.

  • potentially blocks Brandon Allen for a year (which might not be a bad thing)
  • Conor Jackson in left field-how will he fare?
  • No longer interested in Jose Valverde?
  • short term commitment
  • Makes lineup deeper and more potent
  • Adds some much needed power from the left side
  • Quality defensive first baseman (should help other infielders)
Conclusion: Aside from the fact that LaRoche made a huge mistake turning down the Giants' contract offer, playing in Arizona should be a nice fit for him. This is a team that is loaded with lots of young and talented offensive players and has a realistic chance at making the playoffs. LaRoche has put up consistently good power numbers throughout his career (20+ HR in every season since 2005), but LaRoche is a streaky hitter and his struggles and the beginning of the season have been well documented.

But this move signals to me that the Diamondbacks are serious about competing in 2010, which is not a surprise given the contract status of ace Brandon Webb. I imagine that by signing LaRoche the Diamondbacks have moved past their payroll threshold for the season, but I would love to see them remain aggressive on the free agent market (Jose Valverde!)

And if by chance the Diamondbacks are not competitive in 2010, then LaRoche could be a useful trade chip at the deadline. Bottom line: if LaRoche is healthy, then I'm confident that this deal will turn out well for the Diamondbacks.

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