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Adam LaRoche brings cheap wins to Arizona

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Various sources point to Adam LaRoche joining the Arizona Diamondbacks on a one-year deal worth between $4-5M. This would otherwise be a minor news story (and it still sort of is), except for two interesting things:

1) LaRoche apparently turned down a San Francisco Giants offer of two years and $17M in part because he was looking to get himself a three-year deal. Now he'll receive somewhere around 50-60% of what he would have earned in accepting the Giants' offer.

2) It signals the continuing trend of cheap wins in the market, compared to recent seasons. The market so far has been very light on dollars/projected WAR, and LaRoche's case is not much different. Let's look at a "wisdom of the crowds approach" for the projection here. Let's assume some 600 PA for ease of measurement; for your reference, CHONE has him at 588 and the Fans have him at 608. Taking the average of three projections (CHONE, Marcel, and the Fans), we have a projected wOBA of .346, some eight runs better than average in those 600 PA.

Let's take the same approach on defense. CHONE has him at -3 runs in 147 games; the Fans have him at just about average in 148 games. Our own Steve Sommer's projections are at -1.3 runs per 150 games. I'd say he gets those 600 PA in about 145 games of defense. Taking the average of the three projections, you can see a value of something like one run below average. Plug those in for WAR:

8 wRAA + -1 Defense + -11 position + 20 replacement = 16 Runs Above Average Replacement, or 1.6 WAR

CHONE has LaRoche at 1.2 WAR according to FanGraphs' replacement/position adjustments, while the Fans have him at closer to 2 WAR. This I believe is a solidly happy medium. And for this 1.6 WAR the Diamondbacks are paying at most perhaps $3.1M per win. For a one-year investment, this is probably par for the course, as such one-year contracts are usually discounted off the normal WAR rate. All-in-all, a solid move by the Diamondbacks.

Additionally, we should consider how this set the market for the first basemen remaining. There are still plenty of quality players at first base available, but few teams particularly interested. If those players want jobs for this year without having to wait for injuries in Spring Training to occur, they'd better follow suit and take discounts, as it seems the market will not be awfully kind to first basemen. Expect a similar offer for Russell Branyan, the best first baseman left available, and lesser contracts for guys like Carlos Delgado, who are quickly running out of choices.