The Chicago White Sox were in for a surprise today, as designated hitter Adam La Roche abruptly announced his retirement.
According to USA Today, the reason for his announcement was an “undisclosed personal issue.”
Heading into the second year of a two-year, $26 million contract, La Roche struggled mightily in 2015, his lone season with the White Sox. He batted just .207 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI in 127 games played.
That compares to his career averages of .260 batting average, 26 home runs, and 89 RBI, according to Baseball-Reference.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn told Yahoo Sports that after ”extensive conversations with him, between us and his coaches and he and his teammates, you would have to be respectful and understand his perspective.”
Hahn also spoke about La Roche’s decision with the Chicago Tribune.
“I certainly didn’t foresee retirement being one of the options that we needed protection against, but it’s not dissimilar from an injury or an underperformance situation where we needed to call upon our depth.”
La Roche tweeted the following from his personal Twitter account:
Thank u Lord for the game of baseball and for giving me way more than I ever deserved!#FamilyFirst
— Adam LaRoche (@e3laroche) March 15, 2016
La Roche’s Career
Prior to signing with the White Sox, La Roche was an 11-year veteran of several teams. He began his career with the Atlanta Braves in 2004, batting .278 with 13 home runs in 110 games. He stayed with the Braves through 2006.
La Roche then joined the Pittsburgh Pirates for parts of three seasons. In 2009, he played for three different teams, beginning with Pittsburgh. After just six games with the Boston Red Sox, he was then traded back to Atlanta, finishing the season there.
Following a season in Arizona, La Roche then played for the Washington Nationals from 2011-14.
He then signed his two-year deal with the Chicago White Sox. Since he is retiring, La Roche is walking away from a guaranteed $13 million salary to play in 2016.
While La Roche would never be considered a contender for the Hall of Fame, he was a fairly consistent left-handed power hitter. He hit at least 20 home runs 10 times, and over 30 twice, including a career-high 33 in 2012.
He had 255 career home runs, 882 RBI, and a lifetime OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .798.
Chicago’s Options For 2016
La Roche’s retirement leaves a hole in the White Sox lineup for general manager Hahn and field manager Robin Ventura to fill, but also with some opportunities.
On one hand, his retirement leaves Chicago minus one proven major league power bat.
On the other hand, La Roche was older, at 36, and his numbers were starting to decline, so he probably would have rested more against left-handed pitching anyway.
Also, Hahn suddenly has $13 million to work with that he did not have before. So the White Sox could pursue a trade; for instance, Matt Kemp, right fielder for the San Diego Padres, really would be a better fit for an American League team, given his poor outfield defense. He could be available for the right price.
Another option would be to do what other American League teams have done in recent years: instead of having one full-time DH, Chicago may opt to rotate players in and out of the position, thus giving men like first baseman Jose Abreu, third baseman Todd Frazier, and left fielder Melky Cabrera rest but keeping their bats in the lineup.
The Chicago Tribune also noted that since they now have a surplus of outfielders with the recent signing of Austin Jackson, Avisail Garcia could also DH several games for the White Sox.
Chicago is coming off a 76-86 record, and a fourth-place finish in the American League Central Division.
[Photo by Paul Beaty/AP Images]