MLB Free Agency: Determining Adam LaRoche's Best Fit
For the first time in his career, Adam LaRoche will likely cash-in during free agency.
LaRoche is a career .268/.338/.482/.820 batter with one Gold Glove award to his credit. He has never been an All-Star and has never hit .300 in his career.
He has been drawing the attention of the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and naturally, the Washington Nationals, to fill their vacancies at first base in 2013.
That said, LaRoche is one of a small handful of standout first basemen on the free agent market that in and of itself is considered to be weak in comparison to recent years.
A majority of his nine year career has come playing in the National League, save for six games in which he played in 2009 as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
With that in mind, one has to wonder how well LaRoche would perform in his new environment. Here is a look at his three suitors and a projection as to where LaRoche would find the most success.
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The Texas Rangers stand to lose Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli this season and need to go in a new direction.
According to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, the fact that the Rangers are kicking the tires on LaRoche is an indication that they are preparing for life without Hamilton.
However, how much impact would LaRoche really have in Texas?
His exposure to the Rangers AL West opponents has been limited. LaRoche has only played 15 career games against the Angels, Athletics and Mariners.
His numbers in those games have been less than desirable.
He has had 54 at-bats with seven runs, 12 hits, five doubles, no triples, one home run and six RBI on the heels of a .205/.259/.333/.593 batting line—all of which are below the league average.
In addition, he has walked four times versus 11 strikeouts.
The wild card in his moving to the NL West would be the addition of the Houston Astros to the mix.
In 76 career games against the Astros, LaRoche has had 269 at-bats with 29 runs, 74 hits, 16 doubles, two triples, 11 home runs, 45 RBI on the heels of a .275/.346/.472/.818 batting line while walking 24 times versus 58 strikeouts.
Newsflash: he has feasted against a poor team.
Generally speaking, Texas doesn't feel like a good fit for him.
Boston Red Sox
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Once upon a time Adam LaRoche was a member of the Boston Red Sox.
Six games later, he wasn't. The end.
Okay, perhaps there is more to it than that. While the Red Sox literally flipped LaRoche in 2009, he did manage to play for the team and did perform decently in his extremely brief tenure.
In his six games, LaRoche posted a .263/.263/.526/.789 batting line while getting five hits on 19 at-bats, scoring two runs with two doubles, a home run and three RBI.
In the same piece he wrote regarding the Rangers interest in LaRoche, Morosi points out that the Red Sox were "impressed" with LaRoche in his short tenure with the team.
Again, the question is: how well would he perform in Boston?
Against American League East opponents he has played in 54 career games with 188 at-bats with 31 runs, 44 hits, six doubles, one triple, 10 home runs and 32 RBI while batting .232/.304/.430/.734 with 21 walks versus 49 strikeouts.
Yes, the numbers are better than what he has against the AL West, but one must be concerned about his demeanor and if he could handle the pressure that comes with playing in Boston.
In 15 career games at Fenway Park, LaRoche owns a .148/.193/.296/.489 batting line, the lowest of any park he has played 10 or more games in.
Once again, it appears that Boston may not be the best fit for LaRoche.
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Washington has been the place LaRoche has called home for the last 197 games of his career.
During that time he has had 722 at-bats with 91 runs, 181 hits, 39 doubles, one triple, 36 home runs, 115 RBI and posted a .251/.331/.457/.788 batting line while walking 92 times versus 175 strikeouts.
The Nationals seem to be the best fit among all three of his suitors. Not just because of the familiarity, but because LaRoche performs markedly better in the NL than in the AL.
While Adam LaRoche turned down the Nationals qualifying offer of a one-year $13.3 million deal for 2013, it would appear that the team is still trying to work a deal out.
According to Amanda Comak, Nationals beat writer for The Washington Times:
The #nats have been in contact with Adam LaRoche's agents and they continue to talk.
— Amanda Comak (@acomak) November 8, 2012
While the Nationals have the money to move on from LaRoche if they really want to, it seems as though he is their best option at first base, especially this season.
If things go as anticipated, LaRoche will ultimately sign a deal that brings him back to the Nats in 2013.