LaRoche is what he is – a slightly above average average left-handed bat who can play first without being a disaster and needs to be platooned. He’s good enough to start against right-handers for a team not in contention, but he’s a reserve on any team really trying to win.
ZIPS projects him for a .352 wOBA going forward, but switching to the AL East will hurt him a bit. His defense at first is below average, so the overall package is worth about +1 to +2 wins per season. He’s not a terrible player – just a bit below average. He’s also the kind of player you should never pay serious money to, which is why the Pirates had to be thrilled to dump the rest of the $7 million he was owed for 2009.
Boston can make this kind of move because of their financial resources – they almost certainly didn’t give up anything of value to get LaRoche, whose contract makes him a negative asset to most clubs. But, as a team with a large payroll, they have the ability to drop $3 million on a back-up first baseman for the stretch run.
Having LaRoche around won’t change the dynamics of the AL East race too much, but he does provide a stoploss option in case Lowell gets hurt again. Boston’s upside didn’t change much with this move, but they did raise their floor. LaRoche gives them the ability to not have a hole at first base, and that has value. Is it worth $3 million? If you’re the Red Sox, apparently it is.