Andy LaRoche has found a new home, signing a minor league deal today with the Oakland Athletics. LaRoche will receive an invite to Spring Training. The addition for Oakland isn’t a surprise. A year ago we heard rumors that Oakland tried to trade for LaRoche, only for the Pirates to ask for pitcher Gio Gonzalez and outfielder Ryan Sweeney.
LaRoche showed some promise in 2009. His hitting wasn’t really anything to write home about, but his defense at third gave him a lot of value. He also started to heat up at the plate in the final two months of the season, leaving hope that he would finally realize his potential in 2010. The opposite happened. Not only did LaRoche struggle at the plate in 2010, he also saw his defense decline, and was eventually replaced by Pedro Alvarez.
I was hoping that the Pirates would keep LaRoche heading in to the 2010 season as a bench player, rather than non-tendering him, if only to avoid the rare chance that he becomes the next Jose Bautista. However, the Pirates pretty much took the same approach in signing Josh Fields and Andy Marte, who are former top prospects that never broke out in the majors, just like LaRoche. I’d probably take LaRoche over either player, as I think his defensive upside is greater, but I’d take Fields or Marte over some of the bench options we’ve seen in the past few years, such as Ramon Vazquez or Chris Gomez. At least Fields or Marte have the small chance of being the next Jorge Cantu or Carlos Pena, with a surprise breakout season.