The Chicago White Sox have agreed to sign first baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year, $25 million deal, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
The White Sox had reportedly "checked in" on LaRoche, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported four days ago. But it was the Miami Marlins that supposedly shown "aggressive interest" in LaRoche, Jayson Stark of ESPN reported, and they even offered him a two-year, $20 million deal, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported. But it must have been the extra $5 million that drove him away from Miami.
The 35-year-old LaRoche is an eleven-year MLB veteran and recently spent the last four seasons with the Washington Nationals. They paid him $15 million over the first two seasons of his contract and $22 million over the past two seasons. The signing of LaRoche was just one of the first deals the Nationals made to surround their young talent and to get them into contention.
The Nationals had filled their infield to the brim at the end of last season, seemingly forcing Ryan Zimmerman out of a job. With a $2 million buyout looming of LaRoche, they ultimately decided to let him go elsewhere and will likely stick Zimmerman at first, where he won't be as injury prone.
LaRoche is a former 29th round pick in the 2000 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves and has had a very successful career as a power hitting first baseman. LaRoche has a career .264/.340/.472 line, while averaging 27 homers and 92 runs batted in over every 162 games he played. LaRoche's 114 career OPS+ and 113 career wRC+ suggest that he's been either 14 percent or 13 percent better than the average major league hitter, depending on what metric is used.
LaRoche hit .259/.362/.455 with 26 homers and 92 runs batted in over 586 plate appearances this past season. He was a 1.6 fWAR player in 2014, mostly due to his offense, as he posted a -5.2 UZR/150 in 2014. Defensive runs saved believe that LaRoche was an average first baseman, as he saved zero runs last year.
LaRoche will add to a White Sox lineup that already includes the likes of first baseman Jose Abreu. Either LaRoche or Abreu could slide into the designated hitter slot, while that is yet to be known. Abreu posted a better UZR/150 last season as compared to LaRoche, but was not viewed as favorably in the eyes of defensive runs saved. Either way, Chicago will get two power hitters in their lineup.
The Oakland Athletics and designated hitter Billy Butler have agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal, according to Robert Murray of MLB Daily Rumors. I reported that a deal was close two days ago.
Butler represents an interesting addition to an Athletics team that has been missing power from their lineup ever since Yoenis Cespedes was dealt to Boston in the Jon Lester deal. Butler didn't have the best numbers in 2014, but he was still solid. A complete rebound from him at only $10 million per year would turn out to be a good deal for Oakland. And at 28-years-old, he could still do it.
The Florida native Butler was selected by the Royals in the first round of the 2004 MLB Draft. Since first appearing in the majors back in 2007, Butler was selected to the 2012 MLB All-Star Game and was given a Silver Slugger. Butler has a career .808 OPS and a 119 OPS+ in 4,811 plate appearances.
Butler fills a need for the Athletics that has been there for quite some time. This past season, Athletics hitters posted the eighth-worst OPS against left-handers. They posted a 96 wRC+ against southpaws, ranking 20th in the major leagues.
The Athletics will be getting a lefty-masher in Billy Butler. Over his career, Butler has posted a .314/.393/.519 line with a 142 wRC+ in 1,293 plate appearances versus left-handers. At $10 million a season, Butler represents an expensive platoon player, but if he can give the Athletics that boost in their lineup that they need, it was a deal they had to make.
Butler was rumored to have been offered a $30 million deal from the Orioles earlier in the offseason, but the rumor was shot down. At that time, the $30 million deal seemed like something Butler would definitely take, but something that seemed like a big commitment to him. The Royals were only willing to go as far as a one-year deal for Butler, but Billy Beane and the front office staff in Oakland appeared to have really felt that Butler would be a good addition to the club.
Butler hit .271/.323/.379 with nine homers and 66 runs batted in over 603 plate appearances this past season with Kansas City. He posted a 128 OPS+ with the team from 2009 to 2013, so he isn't too far removed from a good season offensively. However, many believe Butler has shown signs of declining.
The Chicago White Sox have signed left-handed pitcher Zach Duke to a three-year, $15 million deal, they announced today. Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago reported the signing first.
Duke, 31, has pitched in 10 big league seasons with five different clubs, finishing up the 2014 season with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was selected as a starter in the 20th round of the 2001 MLB Draft by the Pirates and worked his way quickly through the minor leagues. Since, he has been converted to a reliever. Duke has posted some up-and-down numbers out of the 'pen, but was strong in 2014.
"Very early on, we identified Zach as one of the best left-handed free agents available this offseason, so we are very pleased he agreed to join the White Sox," said Rick Hahn, White Sox senior vice president and general manager in a press release. "He addresses an important need in our bullpen by giving Robin Ventura a veteran left-handed option late in games."
Duke went 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 2014. He pitched 58 2/3 innings last year, striking out 74 and walking just 17. Over his career, he has a 4.46 ERA and a 4.17 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) over 1,144 2/3 innings pitched. He has traditionally averaged about two strikeouts per every walk.
A three-year, $15 million deal appears to be a large investment for a lefty reliever that has not enjoyed a ton of success over his career. Regardless, the strikeout numbers were real good for Duke last season, perhaps indicating that he might just be a late bloomer. The White Sox bullpen is currently very young and inexperienced, so Duke will help add some veteran leadership as well.
The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired outfielder Jason Heyward and right-hander Jordan Walden from the Atlanta Braves for righty Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins, the teams announced.
Heyward will be the outfielder the Cardinals lost with the unfortunate passing of Oscar Taveras. It didn't take a ton to get him from Atlanta, considering the fact that they also got excellent setup man Jordan Walden along with him. They gave up promising the righty Miller, however, along with former first round pick Tyrell Jenkins, who, at 21, is still progressing through the minors.
The Braves almost had to move Heyward. He is a free agent at the end of next season, and they weren't willing to pay him, apparently. Instead of just letting him walk in free agency, they moved him for a return, and if Jenkins turns out to be good, they will get a good return for Heyward. But they also had to move Walden along with Heyward.
The 25-year-old Heyward was drafted in the 1st round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the Braves and worked quickly though the minors, first appearing in the big leagues in 2010. He is named to his lone All-Star team in 2010, but still has posted solid offensive seasons every year, while providing excellent defense, as he captured his second career Gold Glove this season.
This past season, Heyward hit .271/.351/.384 with 11 homers and 58 runs batted in over 649 plate appearances. He posted a 24.1 UZR along with a 5.1 fWAR, the second-highest mark of his career. Heyward has a lifetime 117 wRC+ and averages a 17.1 UZR per 150 games.
The Cardinals will also receive Jordan Walden, who went 0-2 with a 2.88 ERA and a 127 ERA+ over 50 innings with Atlanta. The setup man recorded 20 holds. Walden is the former Angels closer who saved 32 games back in 2011, his lone All-Star year. He strikes out a ton of hitters and will be great with Trevor Rosenthal at the back end of St. Louis' bullpen.
Miller, 24, went 10-9 with a 3.74 ERA and a 98 ERA+ over his 183 innings pitched this season. He is also a former first round pick and still has a very bright future, adding pitching depth to the Braves staff. Jenkins posted a 3.28 ERA in 74 innings pitched with High-A this season.