The Diamondbacks are 10.5 games out of a playoff spot and they aren't scheduled to play a team with a losing record for more than a month. If you suspect they might become sellers, you're not alone. As ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports, executives expect the D'Backs to move payroll early this year.
Adam LaRoche has makings of a trade candidate. He's on an affordable one-year deal and he's hitting well. Last month MLBTR's Tim Dierkes suggested that the Rangers, Mariners and Marlins could inquire and we can now add the Angels to the list of possible suitors. LaRoche was traded twice last summer, so we can start to determine his current trade value by looking back at last summer's deals. To figure out what the D'Backs can get for LaRoche, let's consider the players he was traded for, what has stayed the same since last year and what has changed:
Who LaRoche was traded for:
- The Red Sox gave up pitcher Hunter Strickland and shortstop Argenis Diaz. At the time of the trade, Baseball America suggested Strickland had a chance of becoming a big league reliever. Diaz appeared to have big league potential as a defense-first shortstop last July. After last season, BA ranked Strickland 19th among Pirates prospects.
- The Red Sox then sent LaRoche to the Braves for Casey Kotchman.
- An unknown club offered a major leaguer and a borderline prospect for LaRoche last summer.
What has stayed the same:
- LaRoche is in the final year of his contract.
- His team is out of contention.
- He has a reputation as a second half hitter (career .300/.363/.546 line in the second half).
- His defense remains about average, according to UZR.
What has changed:
- LaRoche's contract is more team-friendly this year. He was making 7.05MM last year. Now, LaRoche's salary is just $4.5MM, but if a team trades for him, they'll have to buy LaRoche out for $1.5MM or pick up his 2011 option for $9.5MM.
- He's hitting better this year. When the Pirates traded him last year, LaRoche had a .247/.329/.441 line. Now, he's hitting .266/.362/.485 with seven homers.
- LaRoche, now 30, is a year older.
- A contender has a clear need for a first baseman this year. The Marlins, Giants and Braves all wanted upgrades at first base last year, but none of those teams had a hole like the Angels do now.
- LaRoche brought the Pirates a couple secondary prospects last year and could reportedly have brought in a similar return from another team. Now, he's under a more desirable contract and hitting better in a market where one team clearly needs a first baseman and few clubs appear ready to sell. D'Backs GM Josh Byrnes seems better-positioned to acquire prospects for LaRoche than Neal Huntington was a year ago.