Diamondbacks Sign LaRoche to Man First

It seemed like just last week that it was reported the Arizona Diamondbacks were at their stated payroll limit and would most likely not be making any other roster moves save it be perhaps to add a few non-roster invitees to Spring Training.

The news this morning came as somewhat of a surprise when word leaked that the Arizona Diamondbacks had signed free agent Adam LaRoche to a one year contract. Details of the deal are still sketchy but at this point it has been suggested the deal would be worth somewhere between $4-$5 million. There have been unofficial comments that the deal may include an option for 2011.

Perhaps it should not come as a surprise since Arizona has been looking to improve their first base position all off-season. The Diamondbacks believed they had found an answer by trading back-up catcher Chris Snyder to Toronto for Lyle Overbay. That deal was vetoed by the Blue Jays after they gave Snyder a physical after his back surgery.

As of yesterday it looked as though the Diamondbacks everyday first baseman would be Conor Jackson with Gerardo Parra and Eric Byrnes getting the left field duties. Diamondbacks fans were not necessarily enthusiastic with that scenario and now it seems as though the team was not that thrilled with it either.

General Partner Ken Kendrick had suggested in previous comments that the payroll figure could be extended for the right situation but the team would not spend money just for the sake of spending money.

LaRoche who began the 2009 season in Pittsburgh was traded to the Boston Red Sox and subsequently traded to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Casey Kotchman. LaRoche has been described as a slow starter struggling in the first part of the season but ending strongly.

Looking at his career numbers, LaRoche is clearly an improvement over what the Diamondbacks saw at first base this past season. Besides offering additional power from the left side of the plate, LaRoche also offers better defense than the Diamondbacks had last season.

Not all of LaRoche’s numbers are positive though. Like many other power hitters he is susceptible to striking out. Over the past four seasons he has had strikeout totals of 128, 131, 122, and 142 respectively. Compared to Mark Reynolds these totals are almost non-existent but Diamondbacks fans should be prepared to see this team continue its assault on the team record for whiffs.

It will be interesting to see if LaRoche starts out quicker this season given his one year contract status. Perhaps like Doug Davis last season he will change his approach to showcase his skills to others in hopes of getting a longer term deal next off-season.

This looks to be a great deal for the Diamondbacks. It does come with its own set of questions. Does this signing seal Eric Byrnes fate of being released since he now becomes the fifth outfielder on the roster? Will Brandon Allen earn a roster spot or will he be back in Reno this season?

And perhaps the most perplexing question of all; why would Adam LaRoche turn down a two-year deal with the San Francisco Giants last week to sign a one-year deal for less money with Arizona? Seriously, are the Giants that bad? Last year San Francisco made a serious run at the play-offs and seemed to be a team on the rise; something that could not be said about the Diamondbacks last season.

I was about to suggest that the Arizona Diamondbacks roster overhaul now seems to be complete with Spring Training just 37 days away but if the LaRoche signing taught us anything it’s that teams are never done dealing even if they tell you they are.

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