LaRoche to the Desert

Reports earlier in the winter had Adam LaRoche seeking a 3 year, $30 million contract. That was laughable, as everyone knew he wasn’t going to get that, not in this market. Last week, a report came out that he had turned down 2 years and $17 million from the San Francisco Giants. Now, LaRoche has apparently accepted reality, as Sports Illustrated reports that he’s signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks for something between $4 and $5 million.

Unfortunately for LaRoche, he had to learn the lesson of this market the hard way. A few teams were willing to shell out real money for a few high-end players, but the bottom has completely fallen out of the low-end market. Average-ish players simply can’t get big money deals right now. And that’s exactly what LaRoche is – an average player headed into his decline phase.

Still, this is a pretty darn good deal for the D’Backs. They get a solid first baseman for 2010 at little cost, allowing them to use Conor Jackson in left field. He adds somewhere between +1 and +2 wins to their team, and, if Arizona is not contending, should be a pretty decent trade chip at the deadline for a team that needs a low cost first baseman.

For LaRcohe, I’m sure this is not the contract he thought he would have to settle for. But it’s the reality of this market. The remaining +2 win-ish players looking for jobs should take note. The jobs are drying up, and you better take a deal when you can, because the offers aren’t going to get any better.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


56 Responses to “LaRoche to the Desert”

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  1. Michael says:

    This is a windfall for teams looking for cheap wins. LaRoche might have been silly to think he could have gotten that big a market deal, but he’s been a decent player for the last few years and he should still be decent in 2010. Teams on the fringes of competition with position holes should take note, because there are definitely cheap wins to be had left in the market.

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  2. maqman says:

    Well when he retires he can become a banker and make some big bucks.

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  3. Kevin S. says:

    Dave, is this market finally showing what people thought all along, that teams pay more per win for premium players?

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    • The Hit Dog says:

      That might be hard to argue because of the “more years” discount, where players sacrifice AAV for additional years… and in this economy pretty much only premium players are getting multi-year deals.

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      • The Hit Dog says:

        Or whatever the hell people call that phenomenon. I forget.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Right, but the more years discount actually helps with the point, I think. Bay, Holliday and Lackey all signed deals in the $16-$17 million AAV range. Providing 3-4 times as much WAR LaRoche does (for example) is being generous towards them and taking the low side of Adam’s xWAR, but with the discount, their deals are worth even more. Somebody who knows what the security discount is could probably do it up more exactly.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Yeah, about that…

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  4. Steve says:

    If I were a Mets fan, I would be irate right now.

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    • Steve says:

      ok, maybe “irate” is a little strong, but they could have used LaRoche at this price.

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      • JMS says:

        I am a Mets fan and irate is if anything an understatement.

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      • Steve says:

        i changed his grade to an “incomplete”, since he could still make another move for a 1Bman.

        but starting the season with Murphy at 1B would be inexcusable.

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      • Charlie says:

        Not too irate Met fan over here. Would have liked him at this price but don’t see why it’s assumed we could have had him at it. He’s going to a hitters park to rebuild his value and re-enter the market next year, not to mention the little tiff he had with the Mets last season. Say he gets 5 million from the DBacks, MAYBE he would have signed with the Mets for 6 or 7. CHONE has the guy at 1.2 WAR for next year (I think that’s a bit low, he’ll be closer to 2). Delgado and Branyan both around the same mark and Murphy at .7 (also a bit low, I’d love to see a write up of why his defense would regress after his first year playing the new position). I don’t know if the half win to a win upgrade is necessarily worth 6-7 million, especially if the opportunity cost of that money is not being able to upgrade at SP and C. Also wouldn’t be shocked to see Davis ready by the All-Star break and putting up a quality first 200PA in the majors before people start pounding him with breaking stuff.

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      • Steve says:

        Don’t disagree, that’s why I backed off. But it’s also based on the assumption that he does something at 1B.

        I do not think the Mets can afford to stick with Murphy at 1B, especially with Beltran sending up some bright red flags that he might not be ready/effective for the first part of the season.

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    • potcircle says:

      not signing laroche should count as omar’s next move in the contest…

      i hope he gives ryan garko 2 years…

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  5. Xeifrank says:

    (LaRoche @ 1B) – (Parra @ LF) = ??
    1.5 WAR – X = ??

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    • Jason B says:

      My thoughts exactly – you can’t say he contributes ~2 WAR in a vacuum, because he’s not taking over a position that would have just been left totally vacant. Jackson’s health may still be dicey, but assuming he’s healthy and moved to LF, you have to consider LaRoche’s *marginal* WAR over the player he’s ultimately pushing to the bench, which appears to be Parra.

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      • Steve says:

        sure, but doesn’t this type of thinking assume that starters play 162 games and bench players play 0 games?

        Parra will still play quite a bit as the 4th OFer. and if someone else gets hurt, you have all three in the lineup vs. a situation where you’d probably have a replacement level bench player filling in. and it’s unlikely that there are NO injuries during a season.

        i don’t disagree with your thinking, you do have to consider the marginal upgrade, but i don’t think it’s so black and white.

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    • Jason B says:

      I mean, a 2 WAR improvement for $4-5 million? Excellent signing. Huzzah and kudos.

      But a 0.5 – 1 WAR *incremental* improvement for $4 – 5 million? Meh. *Greets signing with apathetic yawns*

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Thing is, Conor Jackson could gain 0.5-1.0 win by moving to the outfield. If his defense is the same at each position, his positional runs go up 5 per 162, and FWIW, UZR/150 has him at -4.0 at 1B and -0.5 in left. UZR isn’t great at measuring 1B and the LF sample is a little small, but if the D’backs have any reason to believe he’d be at least as good defensively in the outfield as he is at first, then he gains value by moving.

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      • Xeifrank says:

        UZR only supports a 3.5 run per 150 games improvement for Conor Jackson and that’s with a limited sample size. After applying some regression, you’d have to lower that to less than 3 runs.

        f(x) = (LaRoche @ 1B – Parry @ LF) + (Jackson Def LF – Jackson Def 1B)

        using Chone/UZR etc…, we get something like
        f(x) = (1.5 – 1.2) + .25
        f(x) = 0.55

        Perhaps add a few fractions for the added depth, but not too much as the Diamondbacks have a fairly loaded outfield, or atleast we above replacement level replacements and a solid (but unproven) 1B prospect in Allen at AAA.
        vr, Xei

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      • Xeifrank says:

        and also add another 4-5 runs for the 1B hitting penalty and you have around a one WAR gain at most. So, at $4M to $5M you make the call. Probably a “push” at best.
        vr, Xei

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Yes, I agreed that the UZR numbers don’t tell us enough, but my point was they show the start of something, and if the D’backs think it’s there, then there is an exploitable advantage. I wasn’t saying there was one solely based on UZR.

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  6. NickM says:

    LaRoche at that price is a good bargain.

    Should be interesting to see what Branyan gets considering how little of a market hes had (um.. Seattle?). I could see him winding up with $3 or $4M guaranteed plus incentives based on PA.

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  7. MBD says:

    I agree with those who have said LaRoche is closer to a WAR of 2 than 1.2. CHONE is projecting 7 batter runs for a guy who just turned 30, has averaged 14.5 runs with the bat over the past 2 years and about 15 over the past 4, and is getting 10 more runs of offense from Bill James. What’s the basis for knocking him down by about 8 runs?

    Also, what is the chance that his notorious slow starts are related to (relatively) cold weather and that playing half his games in AZ (plus a few in LA) will warm up his bat in April, May, and June?

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    • joser says:

      I doubt his slow starts (and they are slow, if you can call the entire first half of the season a “start” — his half-season splits are ridiculous) are entirely or even primarily weather-related: he spent his first three seasons with the Braves, afterall, and I don’t recall May or June in Atlanta being particularly chilly.

      The amusing thing is that while Arizona got a pretty good deal with this signing, if he indeed turns out to be “a pretty decent trade chip at the deadline for a team that needs a low cost first baseman” the real winner may be that hypothetical other team, since they’ll be the one to reap the benefits of his (likely) much-stronger second half — while probably only trading away talent commensurate with his seasonal average value.

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      • Steve says:

        That’s true. Maybe the M’s can even get him for Casey Kotchman.

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      • MBD says:

        Just thinking out loud about the weather, since Atlanta is 1,000 feet above sea level, but I looked up the low temps in April and May and they don’t look much different than those in Phoenix. The highs in Phoenix are, of course, higher, and Pittsburgh is another story, but he really does take longer than Mother Nature to get his groove on.

        Funny point about the real winner, although Arizona must be aware of his splits and might not budge for less than fair value.

        CHONE actually has Kotchman at 1.2 WAR, too. Has anyone ever seen them in the same room?

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  8. JayCee says:

    LaRoche is only “average” because 1B is loaded. And the complaint about Parra’s WAR is silly- every WAR calculation for every player is similarly in a “vacuum.”

    By not taking the SFG offer, LaRoche’s eventual 2011 salary will be subtracted from $12 million to compute how much money he lost. An enormous chunk of change. I think it will be very interesting to try to learn if it was he or his agent who turned down SFG.

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    • Steve says:

      or how concrete the reported offer really was. it’s not like there have ever been rumors that aren’t 100% true.

      at any rate, LaRoche contract is $4M for 2010 and an $8M option for 2011 with a $2M buyout.

      so it’s either $12M/2 or $6M/1 with the chance to sign another deal next winter.

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      • JayCee says:

        I stand corrected. I presumed it was a fact since I read it on 3 websites, but you are right. I had not heard about the $2M buyout.

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    • Jason B says:

      Goodness no, dear boy. Take a very extreme example: if St Louis signed a 5-6 WAR player like Teixeira to something like a 5-yr, 30 mil deal, and relegated Pujols and his 7-8 WAR to the bench, it would be an EPIC FAIL. Sure the Teixeira signing looks fantastic “in a vacuum”; 5-6 WAR for $6 mil per year?!? But when your lineup gets 1-2 WAR *worse* then its a horrible misuse of resources.

      Again, that’s complete fantasy, but illustrates the point – you have to look at *marginal* wins added, because they’re not filling an empty hole. Someone is getting pushed out of the lineup by this signing.

      (Unless they’re taking over for Neifi Perez or something. Now THAT is a pretty empty hole.)

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  9. JayCee says:

    Sorry to mention this in a separate post, but SFG fans *cannot* be happy now to have Huff at whatever price instead of LaRoche at this price.

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    • DL says:

      Agreed, but the problem is that the Giants signing Huff murdered LaRoche’s leverage to the point where he was willing to accept that offer.

      Ideally, the Giants would have waited for Huff to sign somewhere else for similar money and then jumped, but that’s tough to speculate on.

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    • Jason B says:

      Yes I imagine some Giant fans may be in a Huff about this.

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  10. Stan S. says:

    You know that with the way the Bosox cast him aside for Casey Kotchman last summer that there was something wrong with his mental make-up. That has to have something to do with the lack of free agent interest.

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  11. athosgec says:

    The Sox would have been much better off with LaRoche going into the offseason. Might actually have had a bat that was hot. Or even hitting. LaRoche lasted 6 games in the Sox organization, had 5 hits, 1 dinger. The Sox stated they were looking for a backup. However, it is an interesting bit of insight considering the sox would have better off moving Youkilis to 3rd and allowing LaRoche to start at 1st. Actually in retrospect, you might be right.

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  12. hk says:

    If the Giants really offered $17M for 2 years, it begs the question, who’s more clueless, Sabean for offering or LaRoche’s agent for turning it down?

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    • Choo says:

      Regardless of the advice he received from his agent, LaRoche is the one who ultimately turned it down. The important lesson here is that both players and agents should consult Fangraphs before making these kinds of decisions. Otherwise, they might get LaRoched.

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    • Jimbo says:

      I’d have to say LaRoche. He probably won’t get another chance at money like that, however, Sabean will (unfortunately) have more chances to offer such a contract. Bigger swing and miss for ALR?

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  13. Valuearb says:

    I think Conor is a decent left ffielder and a poor first baseman, but even if my impression is wrong, this deal is good even if the actual WAR increase is small, it comes with a significant reduction in variance. Allen may bust and the DBacks can’t compete with a hole at first, 2009 showed that.

    Now the team has reasonable backup options at every position, again, unlike 2009.

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  14. Circlechange11 says:

    Thud deal will allow parra to platoon if needed and give Whietesell an extra year to improve consistency.

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    • Jim McLennan says:

      Except he’ll be doing it for the Washington Nationals, since Arizona non-tendered Whitesell.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Yeah, that could be a problem. *grin* I deserve all the jokes/insults headed my way. heh Heh.

        My brain is mush today. I was thinking that they DFA’d (or outright released) Tony Clark and got rid of Tracy.

        What I forgot is that they traded for Brandon Allen during the season.

        Allen has some good power MiLB numbers, but an incredibly high K % … so LaRoche likely offers Allen some AAA time.

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    • Jason B says:

      Joe Morgan approves this message.

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  15. CircleChange11 says:

    LaRoche could still come out ahead if a good year in AZ leads to a desirable(money/years) contract with a good team.

    The 2y deal with the G’s in a park that kills LHB’s, was probably not the situation he was looking for (just guessing). While he may have over-estimated himself and/or the market, he could still end up okay.

    I don’t know that the SFG contract situation was just about money. If he signs a 2y deal, and has two subpar seasons, with the park suppressing his medium power, he likely gets a much lower deal in the years following.

    Still taking a 1/5 deal over a 2/17 doesn’t look good to many people.

    With Webb returning to AZ in ’10, and them adding 2 SP’s instead of retaining 1, and the BP being a year older, with Upton and Reynolds now estalished as bonafide, adding LaRoche … AZ could be a serious contender in the NLW, and the WC.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      The problem is that the massive NPV difference between the two contracts makes it very difficult to make it up in future deals at this point in his career.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        For the most part, I agree.

        I’m just trying to figure out what (or if) LaRoche was thinking.

        The Giants, with their SPs, seem to be a team worth playing for, especially if one (LaRoche) could be viewed as the guy that “came in and made the difference”.

        He either thought the G’s would be a bad career move, or that someone would come up with a better offer. But, then why sign a 1y/5M deal?

        I’m guessing he thinks he can have a big year with Az and then cash in, perhaps in a year where teams aren’t overpaying non-reliever, non-elite players.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Yeah, I see what you’re saying. It’s irrational, but you’re claiming he could have been acting irrationally. I can buy that.

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  16. cameron datzker says:

    I think Adam LaRoche is a idiot? How can you kiss 2 years at $17 million
    dollars good bye. Also, I understand That Brian Sabean was willing to go
    up to $20 million dollars. Who is the jack ass now!! Adam LaRoche deser-
    -ves to be a scrub on The Arizona D’Backs. This guy would of own San
    Francisco but instead is the “King of The Desert”. I still like The Aubrey\
    Huff deal as this guy is a club house leader and brings certain intangibles
    that LaRoche doesn’t have. I think if The D’Backs are out of the race, this
    guy could be headed to a contender like The Padres.

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  17. LOL Fantastic Awesome Tract Morgan is one brilliant and extremely funny remain true comedian. He helps keep me in joins for hours and give us a good time when great job

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