Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche will be arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter, and can expect to earn $7MM or so in 2009.
LaRoche has not been bad with the Pirates – .272/.345/.458 in ’07, .269/.340/.480 this year. The problem: he was useless in April both years, continuing a career trend. His lines look much better without April included – .296/.361/.492 in ’07 and .291/.358/.535 this year. That is the kind of production the Pirates expected when they traded Mike Gonzalez for him in January of ’07.
Clearly LaRoche has value, so non-tendering him is out of the question. In April of this year, the Pirates reached a possibly insurmountable impasse in multiyear extension talks with LaRoche. With the Pirates in a clear rebuilding phase, trading him this winter makes sense. Teams that could be in the market for a first baseman: the Yankees, Indians, Angels, A’s, Mariners, and Giants. LaRoche could be Plan B for GMs not willing to pony up the young players needed to acquire Prince Fielder or Ryan Howard. Still, the Pirates do not have payroll problems and will not trade LaRoche just to unload salary.