Well, I am as certain as one can be when I tell you that the Orioles have talked about or offered free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche a three-year deal worth $21 million - or have at least thrown those figures his way, officially or unofficially on paper. And today I read that ESPN’s Buster Olney says the deal is worth a “reported $21M” as well. A source close to the situation now tells me that LaRoche, who was looking for a three-year contract, is comparing his deal to Carlos Pena’s. Pena, in case you don’t know, received a one-year, $10 million deal from the Chicago Cubs after he told me the Orioles made him an “enticing offer” that he “strongly considered.” President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, however, denied making an offer to Pena and said the two had one conversation in the presence of agent Scott Boras and that was it.
Here’s my tweet from earlier: “Source close to LaRoche situation: “Adam should have taken deal from the #Orioles. But... he wants good money and he saw what Pena got.”
Here’s why LaRoche, if he truly believes deserves Pena money, cannot compare his negotiations to Pena’s:
First, LaRoche is getting three years of guaranteed money while Pena is only getting one and will be faced with the pressure to have a rebound year in order to get a multiyear deal after the 2011 season. Pena is coming off the worst year of his career where he batted just .196 with 28 home runs and 84 RBI for the AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays and the first baseman will need to build his worth back up during his time in Chicago, a division with which he is unfamiliar.
LaRoche, on the other hand, in addition to the guaranteed $21 million I mentioned before, will be entering the toughest division in baseball while Pena will be leaving it. While LaRoche’s defense is his biggest asset and is what sparked the Orioles’ interest, has not proven he can hit in the AL East and is about to face elite pitchers such as Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and so on.
While there are few teams seeking a first baseman, LaRoche doesn’t seem to have many other options - or maybe he does and we just don’t know it. I will say this: I certainly don’t.
Regardless, and lets think out loud together, there’s probably two simple things going on here with LaRoche. One, he’s clearly holding out for more money - I doubt more years - or simply does not want to play here. Would the Orioles go to three years, $24 million? Maybe, yeah. Now don’t take this personal Orioles fans, but not many players are jumping at the chance to play for an under-.500 team in the toughest division in Major League Baseball, so you knew going into this offseason MacPhail was going to have to either overpay, add an extra year or both. If you want, you can make the argument that LaRoche will be reunited with Mark Reynolds, his teammate from Arizona, but the two had a combined 383 strikeouts last year on a team that only won 65 games and finished last in the National League West. Is that the duo, defense aside, you want at your corners?
Also, Torii Hunter wasn’t able to lure his buddy Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Angels. Crawford eventually chose the Red Sox over the Angels. Jayson Werth couldn’t convince Cliff Lee to play for the Nationals and Lee ended up returning to Philadelphia after Werth departed. And lastly, Lee also didn’t let Sabathia, his ex-teammate from Cleveland, sway him to join the Evil Empire in New York. So honestly, how much pull does an ex-teammate really have?
And the bigger question is this: Do you really want LaRoche that badly?
The Orioles just may have given up on LaRoche already since there’s now reports the organization has shifted their interest back to free agent Derrek Lee. But the 35-year-old Lee has made it no secret that he wants to play for a contender next season, which one would assume would automatically eliminate Baltimore.
So - and again just thinking out loud - they can always go with Plan B and put Luke Scott at first and sign that big bat they have been seeking to DH. I have been saying this since the moment I started doing talk radio here in Baltimore last December. I thought last offseason the Orioles should have made a run at Vlad Guerrero (29 homers), who ended up with the Rangers; Jason Giambi (13 homers n 2009), who re-signed with the Rockies; Jim Thome (25 homers), who signed with the Twins; Hideki Matsui (21 homers), who signed with the Angels after winning World Series MVP with the Yankees; or Russell Branyan (25 homers), who signed with Cleveland.
Now, when all hell seems to be breaking loose with LaRoche, these names are being considered. In my opinion, after the season Scott has last year at the plate, putting him at first and keeping his bat in the lineup in addition to an even bigger bat at DH (and hopefully one from the above list) would not only be a great Plan B, but not a shabby Plan A.
Talk to me. Keep it clean and be kind.
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