The exercise was to visit Cot’s Baseball Contracts
website, take a look at each position need, and determine who’s worth
spending time and energy on.  The assumption here is that
everyone who’s on the Mets’ case for having deep pockets and a shallow
farm pool are correct, and that it would be better to spend money than
trade prospects.

Better Know A First Baseman: Adam LaRoche

You know, here at Sports Night, we get a lot of mail. Most of it goes something like this: ‘Casey, Dan, you two obviously know a lot about sports. But what can you tell us about legendary Italian song stylist Tony Orlando?’ Well, you should know that Tony Orlando is not Italian, and if you guessed that the man was of Latin decent, you’d be incorrect as well. Mr Tony Orlando hails from Greece, and we thought you should know that.”

Dan Rydell, Sports Night, “The Head Coach, Dinner And The Morning Mail”


David Adam LaRoche is Mexican.  I did not know that.

LaRoche played for three teams last year: the Pirates, the Red Sox, and the Braves, and in a spot of misfortune for the Sox, went 5-for-19 in Boston, prompting Paperbacknovel.com to sponsor Adam’s Baseball Reference page by writing the following:

“Only a pawn in the Red Sox game. What a screw up by Boy Genius Theo Epstein — trading LaRoche for Casey Kotchman. LaRoche finishes with a bang-up end of season for Atlanta — one of their key hitters down the stretch, while Kotchman was a dud.”

(Odd thing about LaRoche’s year: he had twelve home runs, forty RBIs, and a triple for Pittsburgh.  Upon returning to Atlanta, he notched twelve home runs, forty RBIs, and a triple.

No, it doesn’t mean much.  It’s just weird, is all.)

I gotta think LaRoche wouldn’t be too happy to note the vitriol on a page bearing his stats, even if it’s not directed at him.  Comments captured by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dejan Kovacevic, after Carlos Beltran got his Jimmy Rollins-on, show that LaRoche will call a man out for disrespecting him.

Of course, Beltran rarely says things he doesn’t mean, so he doubled down the following day (as captured by the Adam Rubin of the Daily News).

As unnecessary as the dust-up was, Rodriguez-Bruney it wasn’t.  And if Adam LaRoche could manage to work as a Met, I’m sure he and Beltran would have their talk and that’d be the end of that.  Would it make sense to even bother? 

LaRoche’s fielding is defense was above reproach in 2009, after a less-than-exemplary 2008 that saw six ground- or fly-ball errors out of eight total (between Luis Castillo and The Ole! Kid Daniel Murphy, such things cannot be ignored).

But this is about production.  And without trying to predict a trend, LaRoche has consistently performed better than the league average in OPS.  After a breakout 2006, the lefty’s found some consistency in home run hitting, naturally slamming right-handed pitching at a rate of three-to-one.  Assuming the sky doesn’t fall on the man or he doesn’t hit Renaissance II: Electric Boogaloo, one can assume a 25-home run, 85-RBI season.  For comparison, joyous days were when Beltran and David Wright were pushing for 30/100 seasons.  That happened, if you recall.  Two men on the Mets combined for more than a handful of home runs.

LaRoche’s value would be more apparent on a team looking to “get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in,” as is so annoyingly presented as the Mets’ bread-and-butter.  Last year, he drove in the runner from third with less than two out fifty-three percent of the time in 34 opportunities.  By comparison, Russell Branyan did it forty-six percent of the time in 2009 in a similar number (35) of opportunities.  Carlos Delgado did it fifty-eight percent of the time in 2008, with 43 chances.

By the way, feel me on this annoyance with “get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in,” I plead with you.  It’s remarkable, exciting baseball, but holding it up as a recipe for success is like me declaring I’ll come out on top this year because I’ve decided to wear pants full-time.  It’s the same thing with the curveball drill held at Mets 2009 Spring Training.  Of course they should be able to hit curveballs.  Of course they should be able to drive runners in.  That’s the job description.  They should also be able to knock tomato cans out of the game by taking meatballs served and whacking the bean out of the house.

(As of this writing, it’s 3a and I find my dinner left me wanting.)

So he’s gotta crush it.  He’s gotta crush it against the Braves and Marlins (who are righty-heavy), the Phillies (who are not), and the Nationals (who knows at this point).

My question is whether he’ll do it at less than $7 million a year, which is what he earned in 2009 as he bounced about.  My guess is no, seeing as how he’s a competent thirty year-old first-baseman who’s had all of a slight hamstring issue and a sore back in five years of service.  He’s not setting the world on fire, but players have signed for more and brought less.

Any multi-year deal for LaRoche at $7 million or more per is where I get off the bus.  Daniel Murphy reached somewhat near LaRoche’s RBI total in a hideous year for him and the Mets in general, and managed to drive runners in at about the same (two points higher) percentage.  And I get the idea that Murphy will spend at least some of the peanuts he’ll earn next year upgrading the stereo on his ’02 Honda Civic.

The above might all sound schizophrenic, but here it is in abstract: Adam LaRoche is not a bad guy.  He speaks his mind and goes where he’s told, and seems to be settling into a good life as a slightly above-average producer and defender at first base.  He’ll make some team looking for a solid citizen very happy someday soon. 

If he should happen to fall to the Mets, and be somewhat desperate, and that power production is supplemented elsewhere in the Mets line-up, AND the Mets decide to rid themselves of Murphy or don’t think he’s ready, worse things could happen than signing him.  But not for years and years, as looks like might happen elsewhere, and not at money that could be spent on trying to cash in on Delgado one last time, or roll the dice with Branyan.

He’s also not Greek, like Tony Orlando is (actually just of Greek descent).  But that’s beside the point.

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