Offseason Complete After LaRoche Signing

Offseason Complete After LaRoche Signing

New Diamondbacks first baseman Adam LaRoche turned down more money and years with the San Francisco Giants earlier this winter before signing with Arizona yesterday. What may not have been a wise move for LaRoche helped solidify the Diamondbacks offense and conclude the club's offseason overhaul.

First baseman Adam LaRoche could have signed early in the free agency period when the Giants made him a two-year offer to become their starter. But LaRoche opted to wait and see how the market developed, and he is glad he did - or so he claims. He said he picked a one-year, $6 million deal from the Diamondbacks over a more substantial San Francisco offer because 1) he could have a chance to test the market again next season, and 2) he prefers hitting in Chase Field over AT&T Park.

Chase Field is one statistically one of the best hitters' parks in the majors.  While AT&T Park ranks as average in terms of runs scored, it does depress home run totals.

"I love it," LaRoche said of Chase Field. "It's not just the fact that the ball flies. I like the fact that it's indoors. I like the climate. I don't know if it's because of the batter's eye, but it is a good park to see the ball in.

"I did have an offer better than this one, but I wasn't interested in playing there as much as I was here. When you are in a ballpark where you know you can drive the ball out from foul pole to foul pole, it helps your confidence. I felt that in Atlanta. That definitely weighed in the decision."

All of this may just be the balderdash of an athlete who is trying to save face and to say the right things.  For his 11-game career at Chase Field, LaRoche is a .238 hitter with a double, a walk, a homer, and a dozen strikeouts.  At AT&T park, he is a .395 hitter with seven doubles, six walks, three homers, and seven strikeouts in 13 games.

LaRoche will make $4.5 million in 2010. He and the D-backs have a mutual option at $7.5 million for 2011 with a $1.5 million buyout, which makes his current deal worth $6 million. That buyout increases to $9.5 million if LaRoche is traded, making a trade unlikely but virtually guaranteeing that his option is picked up if the D-backs do decide to deal him.  The Giants were said to have offered a two-year deal in the range of $16 million to $17 million.

LaRoche, who batted .277 with 38 doubles, 25 home runs and 83 RBI while playing with Pittsburgh, Boston and Atlanta last season, will hit cleanup between Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds.

"He is one of the most consistent guys in baseball," Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes claimed. "He obviously is a legitimate bat. He hits homers, doubles. He hits for a decent average and is a good defender."

Since debuting in 2004, his career .995 fielding percentage ranks tied for ninth among all first baseman.

SNAKE BYTES

--1B/OF Conor Jackson is now the D-backs' regular left fielder after the addition of 1B Adam LaRoche, and OF Gerardo Parra becomes the primary backup at all three positions on a team that usually carries only four outfielders. Jackson had been ticketed to play a lot of first base until LaRoche's arrival, but he prefers left field after spending the last half of 2008 there. Jackson avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $3.1 million deal on the same day LaRoche was added. Jackson made $3.05 million in a lost 2009, when he missed the final five months. He hit .182 in 30 games last year after hitting .300 with career highs in several offensive categories in 2008.

--OF Eric Byrnes was designated for assignment to create the necessary roster spot when 1B Adam LaRoche was signed on January 15. Byrnes was the 11th player in major league history to have 20 home runs and 50 stolen bases in the same season when he had 22 and 50 in 2007. He was never the same after a hamstring injury suffered in spring training in 2008, however, and played sporadically in each of the past two seasons. He signed a three-year, $30 million contract extension late in 2007 that will pay him $11 million this season. "I didn't see a great opportunity for Eric to make our club or contribute to our club," GM Josh Byrnes said of the move.

--C Miguel Montero, coming off a career year, signed a one-year, $2 million contract in his first season of arbitration eligibility. Montero became the starter when regular C Chris Snyder was sidelined by a back injury in late June, and Montero never relinquished the role. He hit .294 with 30 doubles, 16 homers, and 59 RBI -- all career highs in his first regular playing time. He hit .316 after the All-Star break.

--1B Brandon Allen, it appears, will open the season in the minor leagues because of the signing of 1B Adam LaRoche. Allen hit .324 with 12 homers in 38 games at Class AAA Reno last summer, but only .202 with four homers in 104 at-bats in a late-season recall last season and .177 with one homer in the Arizona Fall League. "Obviously it's tough," D-backs GM Josh Byrnes said.  "He dominated in Triple-A for us.  We weren't going to sign just anyone. Adam LaRoche is a significant enough upgrade, and it also provides us more development time for Brandon."

--The D-backs' one remaining roster spot likely will go to either INF Augie Ojeda or INF Tony Abreu, with C Chris Snyder, OF Gerardo Parra and INF/OF Ryan Roberts considered locks for the bench. Abreu has options remaining, which obviously works against him. Ojeda is considered an above-average fielder at all three infield positions, his big plus.

DIAMOND STAT:
58 -- Average number of extra-base bits 1B Adam LaRoche has had during his six major league seasons.

QUOTABLE:
"I think we filled our offensive needs to get better. He really helps our lineup." -- GM Josh Byrnes, on the addition of free agent 1B Adam LaRoche.

ROSTER REPORT

The D-backs concluded their offseason makeover by signing free agent 1B Adam LaRoche to a one-year, $6 contract on January 15, the final piece of a busy offseason in which they added RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Ian Kennedy, 2B Kelly Johnson, RHP Bob Howry, RHP Aaron Heilman, and INF Tony Abreu, re-signed INF Augie Ojeda, and picked up the $8.5 million option on RHP Brandon Webb.

BIGGEST NEEDS: The D-backs feel they addressed all their concerns -- depth in the rotation, power hitting, veterans in the bullpen -- with their moves. Webb, Jackson and Kennedy will join RHP Dan Haren as the nucleus of the rotation, while Howry and Heilman were brought in as bridges to closer RHP Chad Qualls, who missed the final month of 2009 with a dislocated left kneecap. LaRoche will be the starter at first base, enabling Conor Jackson to return a more comfortable left field and young 1B Brandon Allen to get more time at Class AAA. Johnson will start at second.

ARRIVALS: RHP Edwin Jackson (trade with Tigers), RHP Ian Kennedy (trade with Yankees), 2B Tony Abreu (trade with Dodgers), RHP Aaron Heilman (trade with Cubs), RHP Bobby Howry (free agent from Giants), 2B Kelly Johnson (free agent from Braves), 1B Adam LaRoche (free agent from Braves).

DEPARTURES: RHP Max Scherzer (traded to Tigers), LHP Daniel Schlereth (traded to Tigers), 1B Josh Whitesell (non-tendered, signed minor league deal with Nationals).

FREE AGENTS: LHP Doug Davis, LHP Scott Schoeneweis, 3B/1B Chad Tracy.

The D-backs did not offer arbitration to any of their three free agents.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: SS Stephen Drew, RHP Aaron Heilman, RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Chad Qualls.

The D-backs have never gone to arbitration in general manager Josh Byrnes' four years, preferring to settle at the midway point if figures are exchanged.

IN LIMBO: C Chris Snyder signed a contract extension that will pay him $3.5 million in 2010 and $4.5 million in 2011, and the D-backs already took a shot at moving that money when they discussed a trade with Toronto for 1B Lyle Overbay. Clubs no doubt will want to see Snyder healthy in spring training before a deal could be made.


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