After signing Zach Duke to a three-year deal, the White Sox moved quickly in answering a question nobody really asked: who will be their starting first baseman/designated hitter?
After Jose Abreu's unanimous rookie of the year performance, it is somewhat questionable why the White Sox would target a player like Adam LaRoche other than to fill the void left by retirees Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. The four-year Washington National is coming off a fairly impressive season, accounting for 1.6 WAR and 127 wRC+ despite a .277 BABIP. Although this rate is well below LaRoche's career BABIP of .302, Steamer projects his woes to continue, dropping down to .269 for the upcoming season.
LaRoche will undoubtedly slip into a timeshare at first base and DH with Jose Abreu, and White Sox fans should have little worry about him filling in for the three-true-outcomes bat of Adam Dunn (fun fact: 4160 of Dunn's 8328 career plate appearance ended in either a home run, walk or strikeout).
LaRoche is 35-years old and could easily be a bust at $25 million over two years, however, there is significant reason to be excited if you are a White Sox fan. In his last three seasons, since the injury plagued 2011 season, LaRoche has provided a 119 wRC+. Among first basemen, that places LaRoche at a respectable 19th place, immediately behind Lucas Duda and Chris Carter, and immediately ahead of Allen Craig and Adam Dunn. Furthermore, he sits in a respectable 16th place in Wins Above Replacement at 5.4 fWAR, pushed out of the top 15 by Brandon Moss and Brandon Belt.
Some news may be made of the White Sox acquiring 'Gold Glove Finalist' Adam LaRoche, but I would caution against this particular hype. LaRoche is, conservatively-speaking, a bad defensive first baseman. Over the same time span, LaRoche has been the 29th first baseman in Def with -33.8. It is characteristic of first basemen to have a negative Def, but this places him well out of the category of 'elite defenders' at the position.
One last positive takeaway for the hopeful Chicagoan: since 2011, LaRoche has appeared in 446 games which is good enough for 6th at his position. If you're a fan of reliability, although LaRoche does come as a hot/cold player, White Sox fans can take solace knowing his name will be on the lineup card.
I do not, as you may suggest after reading this, move through life with rose-coloured glasses. I am fully aware that LaRoche and Duke do not make the White Sox a clear contender in the AL Central. However, I do think the White Sox aren't as far away as many people think. Their next move will hopefully be geared towards a position they do not already have covered.
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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.
Michael Bradburn is a Contributor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @mwbii. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org