A possible reason for LaRoche’s miniscule market

It was reported earlier this year that Nick Swisher wanted Jayson Werth-type money this offseason.

Don’t we all.

Swisher didn’t get $126 million over seven years. He didn’t get close to that.

But he did end up with a four-year, $56 million deal courtesy of the Indians, according to reports.

The top free agents are starting to come off the board pretty quickly now. By my count, of the top 50 free agents listed by ESPN.com’s Keith Law, only 11 are still without a team for 2013.

Adam LaRoche is obviously one of them. His demands don’t seem too outrageous from an outsider’s perspective; the 33-year-old would like a three-year deal that would most likely be in the range of $33-36 million.

Given what’s been tossed around to some free agents already this offseason, that sure sounds reasonable. And yet, LaRoche has seemingly found no team (or at least, no desirable team) willing to give him such a deal.

It seems that the major reason why teams have been hesitant to bite on LaRoche is the draft pick compensation they would have to surrender in order to bring him on board. Because the Nationals presented LaRoche with a qualifying offer, any of the other 29 teams would need to give up a 2013 draft pick in order to sign him.

In an era in which such focus is placed on drafting and player development, teams don’t want to give up their top picks, and they don’t want to decrease the amount of bonus pool money they’re allowed to spend on draft picks, either. The new draft system gives each team a specific limit that they can spend on bonuses for draft picks, and by giving up a pick, you’re also giving up flexibility when it comes to how you’re spending that bonus money.

Possibly as a result, LaRoche is still out there. Michael Bourn is still out there. Kyle Lohse is still out there. Rafael Soriano is still out there.

The draft pick compensation certainly appears to be affecting the market by limiting the number of teams interested in the players who were given qualifying offers. The Orioles, for example, would be a perfect fit for LaRoche, but the Baltimore Sun reported the O’s aren’t interested in bringing LaRoche in because it would mean a loss of a draft choice.

Teams that finished the regular season in the bottom third of the league have a bit of an edge in these situations. Even though they signed Swisher (who was presented a qualifying offer by the Yankees), the Indians were able to keep their first-round pick in 2013 because they have one of the top 10 selections, which are all protected. Cleveland instead surrendered its second-round pick.

After a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove season, one would think that LaRoche would have his choice of a handful of three-year offers, especially when others around him are landing monster deals left and right.

Yet LaRoche continues to wait.

blog comments powered by Disqus