As of yesterday, Adam LaRoche was the starting DH for the Chicago White Sox. Today, he announced his retirement.
Adam LaRoche has told White Sox he plans to step away from baseball. Teammates asked him to sleep on it, but he's confident in decision.— Colleen Kane (@ChiTribKane) March 15, 2016
This was quite a shock, as there had been no earlier indications that LaRoche was considering this, or even that there was anything going on behind the scenes. On February 22nd, LaRoche told reporters that "last year sucked. It was tough. But I'm over it now, and we do it all over again.
In 2015, LaRoche produced a slash line of .207/.293/.340 with a wOBA of .283 and a wRC+ of 75. He was nowhere near the hitter he was with the Nationals from 2012-2014, and by all appearances he seemed to be looking forward to bouncing back in 2016.
However that's clearly no longer the case, as he's decided to walk away from baseball. He was set to earn $13 million this season, which he'll forfeit. There are now two major questions likely at the forefront of everyone's mind. The first being, why did LaRoche suddenly decide to retire? We'll undoubtedly find out the answer in due time, but for now, he's asked for some privacy.
The second, and more pressing question for the White Sox, is who will be their DH? LaRoche was listed first on the depth chart with Jose Abreu backing him up; while the opposite was true at first base, where LaRoche played second fiddle to Abreu. They're now left without a clear solution, although there are still a couple options on the open market.
Marlon Byrd and Alex Rios are still free agents, and while neither one is going to wow anybody with their offensive prowess, they can likely equal or exceed LaRoche's 2015 performance. Alejandro De Aza has been frequently mentioned in trade rumors, and the White Sox could go after him as well. Chicago couldn't have known they'd have to deal with this situation, and we always have the benefit of hindsight, but it seems like a sure bet that Rick Hahn and the rest of his front office are regretting not signing Dexter Fowler when they had the chance.
His addition would have allowed Avisail Garcia to move to the DH role full-time, while Fowler could have occupied a corner-outfield spot. Unfortunately they don't have that option, and will need to come up with a solution quickly.