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Free Agent Fantasy Impact: Adam LaRoche

Either everyone wanted Adam LaRoche last season, or no one did. It’s hard to tell. LaRoche started the year with the Pirates, and was traded to the Red Sox as the trade deadline was still on the horizon. 9 days later, Boston shipped him off to the Atlanta Braves, bringing LaRoche’s pre free agent career full circle.

LaRoche, a notoriously slow starter, ended the season with 25 homers to go along with a .277/.355/.488 line. He also had 83 RBI and 78 runs, and most importantly, 2 steals. His numbers are right in line with what one should expect from LaRoche, as he hit 25 HR and had an identical wOBA (.357) in 2008. The only year he hasn’t had a line drive percentage below 20% was his rookie year in 2004.

With LaRoche, MLB and fantasy teams know what they are getting: a .275 average with 20+ dingers and 80 RBI. No surprises here. Only problem is, the level of consistency he has is not always rewarded. Teams are more likely to go after a player with the upside for a better season than LaRoche can provide, even if it may come back to bite them in the end.

Because of this, LaRoche’s suitors this offseason will be limited. The most likely scenario is LaRoche going back to the Braves on a one or two-year deal. The Giants could also get in on the action if they decide to non-tender Ryan Garko and spend the bulk of their money in the left field market. After those two, it’s a crapshoot for LaRoche on the open market. I do not foresee any AL team pursuing LaRoche and envisioning him as their everyday first baseman.

If he leaves the Braves, his teammates will notice he is gone more off the field than on it. He was a part of the nice streak the Braves put together to end the year, but he is much better at the end of seasons, anyway. The Braves would likely replace him in house, and the numbers from whoever moves over to first will get a boost from extended playing time.

If LaRoche lands a starting gig, owners should prefer that it is with Atlanta. The talent surrounding him is better than that on the Giants, and the stadium is a little more power friendly. You know what you are getting with LaRoche, so make sure he’s starting before letting him sit on your bench next season.