At the risk of sounding naive, I am hopeful that Jerry Reinsdorf’s belated intervention in L’Affaire LaRoche and LaRoche’s own statement means the end of the public war of words between the White Sox locker room and the front office. For a concise elucidation of what we know right now, look no further than James’ update this morning.* While it is somehow mundane by comparison, there are on-the-field ramifications to Adam LaRoche’s abrupt retirement, and it is worth examining what will be done with 11 percent of the lineup.
While LaRoche was a very long shot to rebound in any meaningful way in 2016, as PECOTA had him pegged for a TAv of .260, there is a non-crazy universe where one points to his .304 TAv in 2014 and attributes his awful 2015 to injuries. With the White Sox finally filing his retirement papers, however, we will never get an answer as to what he could do in 2016.
The timing of this fiasco remains poor, as Pedro Alvarez had just been scooped up and added to Baltimore’s collection of all-or-nothing lefty sluggers. Combined with Justin Morneau‘s surgery keeping him from even swinging a bat until June and Marlon Byrd signing with Cleveland, and there isn’t a whole lot left to choose from.
A team with quality depth would be happy to hide Melky Cabrera‘s glove at DH and just use LaRoche’s departure as a way to improve team defense. The White Sox are not a team with quality depth, and unless something changes, they’re going to have either Cabrera or Avisail Garcia lumbering around ineffectually in the outfield one way or the other. One could imagine more aggressive use of J.B. Shuck as a defensive replacement (a configuration of Shuck-Austin Jackson-Adam Eaton would be the best defensive outfield the White Sox have run out in a long time), but unfortunately none of Garcia, Jerry Sands or Shuck is a very appetizing option against right-handed pitching. Indeed, unless you are the biggest Travis Ishikawa fan on the planet, there aren’t any usable left-handed platoon bats in the organization, or indeed, anywhere on the horizon.
Perhaps RotoWorld is correct that the White Sox simply do not presently have a DH, although I suppose Garcia fields like one.
Trade speculation is an easy way to sound like a moron — this shields me from being a moron if I say something dumb, right? — but the most attractive, realistic option looks like Matt Adams from the Cardinals. The most obvious benefit is that he shares a name with one of our authors, but he has the potential to be a plus lefty bat who can spell Jose Abreu at first base. Although St. Louis denied it this winter, it appears Matt Holliday is likely to get PAs at first this year, which means, with Brandon Moss on board, Adams could be the odd man out. Granted, just because St. Louis can afford to part with Adams doesn’t mean they want to do so, but his projected .268 TAv would fit very nicely in the space recently vacated by Mr. LaRoche.
Given that Adams is under team control until 2019, and he will only turn 30 at the very end of that control, the Cardinals can ask for a return that will sting. Something built around Trey Michalczewski and Jordan Guerrero may get most of the way there. Those guys are nice, but are likely worth sacrificing in exchange for a guy who may give you ~1,500 quality PAs over the next three seasons.
*While the uncertainty as to how this will impact the team moving forward (if at all) is a source of discomfort, I take solace from Chris Sale singling out both Rick Hahn and Robin Ventura for praise yesterday. If it is indeed purely an issue between Sale (and perhaps other individuals on the team) and Kenny Williams, then that should be fairly straightforward to navigate. It also undercuts the narrative that swept Twitter yesterday that Sale had reached the point of no return, hated the whole organization, and would need to be traded immediately. One is left to guess how well this sentiment correlates to a given speculator’s desire to have their team trade for Sale at pennies on the dollar…
Photo Credit – USA TODAY Images by Joe Camporeale.