LaRoche reportedly rejected a two-year, $17.5 million offer from the San Francisco Giants in December, badly misreading the market. As a result, he tucks his tail in between his legs and goes to Arizona, inking what is presumed to be a one year deal worth $4-$6 million for 2010, along with a possible 2011 option.
The move gives the Diamondbacks a slugging first baseman to put in the middle of the order while shoving Conor Jackson to left field and Brandon Allen down to the minor leagues. Jackson, 28, had a lost 2009 due to valley fever but had three straight years of a potent bat, serving mostly as a first baseman. His ability to play left field enabled the club to explore solutions at first base past prospect Brandon Allen, who received 104 at-bats in the majors this past year, whiffing an unbelievable 40 times. While Allen still has a chance to be a 40-home run hitter out of first base, it was the right move to put him back in Triple-A for more seasoning.
LaRoche, 30, has a well-deserved reputation for being a second-half player. With six seasons under his belt, it’s tough to toss out the small sample size argument. His first half slash stats rest at .252/.326/.447 over 1,587 at-bats. In the second half (1,290 AB), the slash stats spike to .300/.363/.546. LaRoche should comfortably be worth two wins over the season, nevermind if he can put together a full year of second half numbers. I’ve tabbed Arizona as my sleeper pick (reasons which we’ll save for another time) in 2010, and signing LaRoche further cements that belief.
Jose Valverde, on the other hands, cements nothing but does raise Detroit’s potential to have a successful 2010 season. The Tigers attempted to pull off some cost-cutting moves earlier by dealing Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson away. As I discussed, I’m skeptical of the return from Detroit’s end, although their competitive window was certainly extended. With Valverde in the fold, the Tigers see their short-term prospects rise. Not to the level of the pre-Granderson trade, but an A.L. Central division title might just happen.
A two-year deal worth $14 million was what it took to bring Valverde to town after an offseason where he turned down an offer of arbitration from the Astros, potentially costing himself about $10 million in 2010 in the process. A third-year option is in place at $9 million, so Valverde still makes out pretty well.
The 30-year old was one of the better closers from 2007-8 and didn’t miss a beat in 2009 after missing time after right lower leg compartment syndrome in June. (As someone who had surgery on both legs for compartment syndrome in February and April of 2009, I can tell you it’s very impressive how quickly and effectively Valverde returned from the injury.)
The knock on Valverde is his poor command, posting a 3.50 BB/9 last year and career 3.61 mark. However, his 1.03 career home runs per nine innings might be improved by the switch to Comerica Park after spending his career in two hitter’s parks.
Strictly from a financial point of view compared to previous and expected output of Valverde, $7 million seems like a steep price to pay. In the last two years, Valverde hasn’t even reached 1 WAR and his career high is 2005’s 1.7. Assuming that one WAR is worth $4.5 million, it’s obviously a lousy deal. If you think one win is worth around $6-8 million, the deal ends up making more sense. (Sky Andrecheck did a two article study earlier this offseason that contends that the $4.5 million figure is outdated, and I tend to agree with him. In all my articles, my analysis will be influenced by his findings, although I will mention the $4.5 million figure as the commonly accepted number.)
What I don’t understand is why the club deigned to move Curtis Granderson if they were just going to end up taking the saved salary, adding on a few million and then chucking it at Valverde. The team would have been better off trying to swap Edwin Jackson and prospects for Scherzer alone instead of moving Granderson as well if they were going to end up doing this.
Putting that aside, assuming the deal was market value, it doesn’t mean the Tigers had to pay it. As the offseason winds along, players are becoming more and more desperate. Heck, we just talked about Adam LaRoche and his settling of a one-year deal worth around $5 million. It’s difficult for me to believe that any other team would have given Valverde close to two years and $14 million — and that a team like the Tigers did just that while also coughing up their first-round pick, which now heads to the Astros.