Adam LaRoche Just 1 Step of White Sox's Apparent Win-Now Push

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2014

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If there were any doubt the Chicago White Sox intend to put a winning product on the field in 2015, the Adam LaRoche signing erased it.

LaRoche, one of the top bats on the market, agreed to a two-year, $25 million deal with Chicago on Friday, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. With the move, the White Sox bolstered their lineup and sent a strong message to the rest of the American League: We're going for it.

If that "it" is a return to the top of the AL Central, the White Sox—who finished 17 games off the pace with a 73-89 record last year—have work to do.

Inking LaRoche helps. The 35-year-old veteran belted 26 home runs to go along with 92 RBI and a career-best .362 OBP with the National League East champion Washington Nationals

He should benefit from both a shift to hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field and to the AL, where he'll likely see significant time at designated hitter. 

Most essentially, LaRoche will join reigning AL Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu, with whom he may split time at first base and DH, to form a fearsome middle of the order.

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So the Sox just got better, no question there, and are unambiguously in win-now mode.

"The only message we want to send at the end of the day is when our roster is complete, that people can dream again," Kenny Williams, executive vice president, told CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes this week.

What more must Chicago do to turn dreams into reality? Let's take a look.

Bolster the Bullpen

The White Sox's relief corps, which put up an unsightly 4.38 ERA in 2014, remains a work in progress.

Yes, Chicago signed Zach Duke to a three-year, $15 million deal. The 31-year-old left-hander had a career year in 2014 with the Milwaukee Brewers, posting a 2.45 ERA in 58.2 innings.

The Sox need more help, though, as general manager Rick Hahn told ESPNChicago.com's Doug Padilla.

The White Sox signed Zach Duke after a career year with the Milwaukee Brewers.
The White Sox signed Zach Duke after a career year with the Milwaukee Brewers.Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

"It was an important get, one we’re all very happy about," Hahn said of the Duke deal. "But we’re not deluding ourselves that we’re by any means finished addressing our needs both in the bullpen or elsewhere."

MLB.com's Phil Rogers speculates that the White Sox "probably won't compete" for top free-agent bullpen arms like David Robertson and Andrew Miller. But, he adds, there's an array of intriguing names with ninth-inning experience—Sergio Romo, Rafael Soriano, Francisco Rodriguez—who the team could target.

"One way or another," Rogers concludes, "the Sox need a right-handed addition alongside Duke."

  

Add a Starter

The top of Chicago's rotation is set with a pair of dominant southpaws: Chris Sale (2.17 ERA, 0.966 WHIP, 208 SO, 174 IP) and Jose Quintana (3.32 ERA, 1.243 WHIP, 178 SO, 200.1 IP). 

No other regular starter, however, posted an ERA below 4.00. Which means the White Sox should dip into this offseason's deep pitching market.

As with the bullpen, Chicago isn't likely to land the big free-agent arms, guys like Jon Lester and Max Scherzer who are sure to command nine figures. 

Free-agent right-hander Jason Hammel could complement Chicago's elite left-handed starters.
Free-agent right-hander Jason Hammel could complement Chicago's elite left-handed starters.Dave Tulis/Associated Press

After those expensive aces, there's a long list of worthy options. Ervin Santana and Francisco Liriano both have serious upside, though each rejected the qualifying offer and would thus cost a draft pick. 

Plucking James Shields away from the division-rival Kansas City Royals sounds tempting, but he wouldn't come cheap.

A more realistic option might be 32-year-old right-hander Jason Hammel, who pitched part of last season in the Windy City with the Chicago Cubs and who the Sox find "intriguing," according to the Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzales.

Dangle Alexei Ramirez

Dealing an All-Star middle infielder might seem like an odd move for a team that's trying to win now. And the White Sox should definitely tread carefully when it comes to trading shortstop Alexei Ramirez.

With the shortstop market thin, Alexei Ramirez could be a valuable trade chip.
With the shortstop market thin, Alexei Ramirez could be a valuable trade chip.David Richard/Associated Press/Associated Press

But, as MLB.com's Rogers notes:

With two years of control left, Ramirez is Hahn's most attractive piece for trade talks. His value is at a max after he won a Silver Slugger Award and finished as a Gold Glove Award finalist, and a 2012 first-round Draft pick Tim Anderson is coming fast.

In a down year for free-agent shortstops, Ramirez could bring back a nice return that provides multiple upgrades elsewhere, and the Sox have options that could serve as the bridge to Anderson at some point in 2016.

If the White Sox can net MLB-ready talent and plug multiple holes by moving Ramirez, it's at least worth considering. If they can't, there's nothing wrong with keeping him.

He'd look good on any winning team, which is exactly what Chicago is trying to become.

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.