The White Sox announced their two-year, $25 million agreement with left-handed hitting first baseman (and first-time designated hitter) Adam LaRoche, their second significant free-agent signing in eight days following the addition of lefty reliever Zach Duke for three years and $15 million.
Having had enough of two straight losing seasons and their sixth in a row without playing in the postseason, they also declared there is more hot stove action to come.
“We want to hit off more things on our target list,” general manager Rick Hahn said after the Sox made the LaRoche signing, reported last weekend, official. “We are certainly pleased with where we are at and did feel we addressed two important needs in the left side of the bullpen and a left-handed hitter in the middle of the lineup as we got in Adam. But we are not by any means satisfied with what we accomplished.”
Hahn added that he will be aggressive in the coming weeks leading to and through the winter meetings in San Diego Dec. 8-11, and through the holidays. Wanted: A right-hander starter, another reliever and perhaps a left fielder who can hit and catch the baseball.
LaRoche, 35, who batted .259 with 26 home runs, 92 RBI and a career-high .362 on-base percentage with the Washington Nationals last season, addressed one important need. He will be the Sox’ cleanup man between Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia.
“Adam checked a lot of boxes that we were looking for,” Hahn said. “That’s why we felt this was an important need to address with him early on in the offseason. He’s a proven performer, slots in nicely in the order in between Abreu and Avi, provides us with an element of patience at the plate as well as some power from the left side.”
Hahn also cited LaRoche’s leadership and clubhouse presence as plusses on a young team. While it was thought he would share time evenly with Abreu between first base and DH or perhaps play more at first because of a 2012 Gold Glove on his resume and Abreu’s ankle issues, manager Robin Ventura and Hahn said two days a week at first is the blueprint for LaRoche.
“Jose is going to be the first baseman,” Ventura said.
“The bottom line,” Hahn said, “is we expect Jose to be with us for a long period of time and to play first base for the bulk if not all of that. So he’s going to continue to get the majority of opportunities out there as his defensive skills continue to develop.”
A career .264 hitter with 243 homers over 11 seasons, LaRoche set a career high with 82 walks, and with 108 strikeouts cut his whiff rate to the lowest since his first full season, a nice development he said he couldn’t explain. On the minus-side, LaRoche, a career .240 hitter against lefties, saw that fall to .204 in 2014 with five homers and 16 RBI in 155 plate appearances against lefties.
When LaRoche’s father, Dave, was Sox bullpen coach from 1989-91, he was a 10-11 year-old wearing a Sox jersey in the Comiskey Park clubhouse that included Sox third baseman Robin Ventura and pitcher Bobby Thigpen.
“Honestly, I’ve always been a White Sox fan,’’ LaRoche said. “And I’m not just saying that.
“I love the city, I like the challenge of coming into a team that has not proved itself but is on the way and is looking to take over the division. They came in strong out of the gate and showed their commitment, how serious they are about getting something done.’’
LaRoche will receive $12 million in 2015 and $13 million in 2016.
To make room for LaRoche on the 40-man roster, right-hander Scott Carroll was designated for assignment. Carroll, 30, went 5-10 with a 4.80 ERA in 26 games including 19 starts in his first season in the majors.