LaRoche had a rough first season in Chicago, providing a .233 TAv mainly from the designated hitter position, while also splitting time with Jose Abreu at first base. He has one year remaining on the two-year deal that brought him to the south side. What will become of that contract remains to be seen, as it’s also being reported that LaRoche is going to take some time to think about it before officially announcing. If he does indeed walk away, the White Sox could buy out a portion of his contract or they could find themselves with $13M more than they thought they had to put towards this season.
There will most definitely be some lament, not only for the personal issues that LaRoche is crediting with his decision, but for the timing of that decision. Had this been determined just a month or so sooner, the money saved, and the roster flexibility, could have been used to acquire one of the free agent targets that the Sox had been rumored to have been negotiating with, or even cheaper ones that wouldn’t have made sense with LaRoche present (e.g. Pedro Alvarez). Time still exists, however, to utilize this potential newfound financial freedom to acquire a bat via trade. The open spot on the 25-man roster, along with the ability to eat additional funds could clear space for a big name splash such as Matt Kemp or Carlos Gonzalez. Even short of something with that level of headline, the 2016 plan has been altered, and we’re likely to see a corresponding adjustment from the front office.
By most accounts, Adam LaRoche is a quality individual, a quality teammate, and will be missed in the clubhouse. One would assume that the back issue that has hounded him in the past and caused him to miss the last week of Spring Training games would be the main motivator, but his reluctance to outright say so, instead citing “personal issues” is troubling. One cannot help but think of how bad things have gotten for LaRoche, either off the field or in terms of his health, for him to give up $13 million and the only career he’s ever known.