The White Sox acquired a left-handed bat in the form of a first baseman from Washington named Adam. And no, it's not 2010.
This time, the Sox signed Adam LaRoche to a two-year, $25 million deal, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
There are some key differences, starting with a contract obligation that's less than half of Dunn's.
LaRoche, who just turned 35 two weeks ago, hit .259/.362/.455 with 26 homers and 92 RBIs for the Nationals last year. He set a career high in walks and on-base percentage while cutting his strikeout rate to the lowest since his first full season (18.4 percent, or 108 total), with contact-rate changes to match. And he accomplished that in spite of distinct platoon splits:
- vs. RHB: .280/.390/.501
- vs. LHB: .204/.284/.336
LaRoche is also considered a good defensive first baseman, although his metrics have dipped to average (in terms of Defensive Runs Saved) or slightly below (Ultimate Zone Rating). In either case, he should be an improvement over Jose Abreu -- that is, if Abreu has no improvement left in him. That can't be assumed so easily. Abreu's ceiling might be limited by his size and age (28 next season), but experience could smooth out some of the rougher edges, at the very least.
This marks the second time LaRoche has replaced Dunn. The Nationals signed him to a two-year, $16 million contract in January of 2011 after Dunn moved on to Chicago, and then followed up with a two-year, $24 million deal afterward.
The Nationals got more out of their $40 million than the White Sox did with their $56 million, even though labrum surgery limited LaRoche to 43 ineffective games in 2011:
LaRoche has hit at least 20 homers in every season in which he qualified for the batting title (nine out of 11 years in the big leagues). He's typically lousy in April, but he defied that trend with a .312/.413/.495 performance in the first month. In fact, he carried a .300/.400/.500 line through mid-June until regression crushed him in July (.159/.238/.227 over 101 plate appearances).
He rebounded back to his usual levels over the final two months, resulting in a season that perfectly fits in with his respectable MLB career. Now we'll see how he fares in his first tour of the American League.