Adam LaRoche announced to his Chicago White Sox team that he is planning on walking away from baseball just weeks before the 2016 season. LaRoche is coming off a disappointing 2015 season and was hoping for a bounce-back in his second season primarily as a designated hitter. The decision was reportedly made on Monday, after LaRoche did not report to camp, but teammates urged the veteran to “sleep on it.” The news became official on Tuesday, although some doubt still remains as he has said he will continue to think about it.
While the team is of course concerned with LaRoche personally, there are other factors that go along with his decision. He was to be paid $13 million for the 2016 season and if the retirement remains official, their budget just increased substantially. Timing is also an issue, as the majority of all free agents have signed for the upcoming season, although some possibilities remain. Justin Morneau seems like the obvious fit as the veteran first baseman has still been able to hit, when healthy, and still is without a team.
The White Sox have had a very busy offseason, with possibly five of the nine everyday starters being a new face. LaRoche himself was possibly going to only be a platoon player as his aging skill set may have only made him playable against right-handed pitching. The roster did seem to be complete, with only the final spots on the roster in flux, but this may allow the White Sox to make one more move. The team did make several attempts in the offseason to trade LaRoche, reportedly taking on a large part of his salary in any move.
While the free agent market has dwindled, the ‘boost’ in payroll may allow GM Rick Hahn to move to his more comfortable space, the trade market. The White Sox were part of trade rumors for Carlos Gonzalez and Jay Bruce this offseason, and this news may create more motivation to bring in another bat.
Even though LaRoche was expected to receive a large amount of at-bats this season, do not expect them to go for a straight-up replacement. The move for Austin Jackson will loom large in conjunction with LaRoche leaving because it will allow more flexibility for Robin Ventura to shuffle his outfielders around using the designated hitter spot. The outfielders, outside of Jackson, all rated poorly defensively last year. LaRoche however, was the backup first baseman to Jose Abreu and currently there is no other player on the roster with much time at first.
If the White Sox do use all or most of the now ‘free’ $13 million, the player will be deserving of at-bats and provide the roster more depth. With the projections expected from LaRoche, this may help the team this season. With that said, there is a person involved in the story and the personal reasons may be serious enough to walk away from that much money. Well wishes to Adam LaRoche and his family.