With the sudden news of Adam LaRoche announcing his desire to step away from baseball and the White Sox organization (no, I’m not going to give my opinion on this soap opera), the Sox now have a void to fill on their roster.
Before this week’s drama, the Sox were hopeful that LaRoche was going to have a bounce-back year in 2016. Although last season was a nightmare for both him and the team, he still figured to be the team’s primary designated hitter and best power threat from the left side of the plate. He would also have been a solid defensive first baseman to spell Jose Abreu once or twice a week. His absence leaves the Sox suddenly searching for a player (or combination of players) to fill his voids.
General Manager Rick Hahn offered the following quote on the matter:
“We’re not going to leave any stone unturned if we decide we need to go outside the organization to make ourselves better,” Hahn said. “We really haven’t spent a lot of time going through alternatives just yet. I do know we like the fact we have the depth we put together over the course of this camp to put us in a good position if there are no additions going forward. But this does open up the possibility in the coming weeks or the coming months leading up to the deadline that we would potentially have a little more flexibility.”
With just 18 days remaining until the first pitch of 2016, here are some options that the Sox could consider for replacing LaRoche.
The White Sox really don’t have anyone on their roster or in the system with a similar profile to LaRoche. However, his absence does present an opportunity for the team to really shore up its outfield defense. Having just signed one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game in Austin Jackson, the Sox could now move Adam Eaton to a corner outfield position and platoon Melky Cabera and Avisail Garcia at DH. The White Sox received a lot of criticism this offseason for not really addressing an outfield that was very subpar in 2015, both offensively and defensively.
Austin Jackson won’t represent an improvement over Garcia or Cabrera at the plate; but in the field, he is light years ahead of both of them. With Jackson in center field and the speedy Eaton at one of the corners, the White Sox would figure to track down a lot more balls in 2016 than they did a year ago.
If the Sox decide to address LaRoche’s absence from an offensive standpoint, they could consider the rejuvenated Matt Davidson, who has been on a terror so far the spring. Davidson was once a top prospect, as the Sox traded away a promising young closer in Addison Reed to get him. For whatever reason, he struggled mightily in his first two seasons in the Sox farm system – hitting just over .200 and striking out over 350 times. But thanks to some offseason adjustments, he seems to have rediscovered the swing that made him a 1st round draft pick out of high school. Davidson is hitting .417 this spring and leads the team with 4 home runs. The Sox will still probably want to see more at bats before they are convinced that Davidson is ready for the Major Leagues, but I also think that the Sox might be kicking the tires on finding a way to get his bat into the lineup.
The first name that seemed to have popped into everyone’s mind after the LaRoche news was Justin Morneau, who is currently a free agent. On paper, Morneau is the closest thing to LaRoche that is available. Morneau is a lefty bat with decent power who can also play some good defense at first base. He is also coming off back-to-back seasons with a batting average north of .300 (I should note that he only appeared in 49 games last year, though). Approaching 35 years of age, he could hit the wall at any time (which seemed to be the case with LaRoche last year), so the Sox should have that in mind if they consider signing him. With LaRoche’s $13 million suddenly off the books on this year’s payroll, the Sox will certainly have the money to sign Morneau. So the ball is in their court.
Josh Reddick is also a name that I have seen tossed around in recent weeks in White Sox nation. If nothing else, it’s a fun thought to consider. No, he’s not a free agent, so a trade would be required. But wouldn’t it be cool to see Austin Jackson, Adam Eaton, and Josh Reddick in the same outfield every day? Queue the Web Gem template, Baseball Tonight. Reddick would also present the left-handed power that the Sox are losing with LaRoche. After all, isn’t anything possible with Billy Beane? The last time I said that anything is possible with Billy Beane, the Sox traded for Brett Lawrie.
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