All the talk in DodgerWorld this offseason has been about the “hole” at 3B. What are we going to do to fill it? There have been many high-price, big names rumored to be following Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre to take over at the hot corner. A-Rod was all the talk in tinseltown after he opted out of his contract with the Yankees. Sports radio was abuzz with the thought of A-Rod “going Hollywood”. But A-Rod to the Dodgers never came to fruition. He patched things up with the brothers Steinbrenner and A-Rod’s big screen debut was put on hold. He may have been the most expensive option named in connection with the Dodgers but there have been many, many others. Worlds Series MVP Mike Lowell was supposedly on the Dodger’s GM, Ned Colleti’s wishlist but a deal couldn’t be reached due to the Dodger’s reluctance and Lowell’s demand to sign for 4 years. A risky proposition for any 33 year old. Many trade options have been explored as well. They’ve reportedly engaged in talks for former Marlin’s (and current Tiger’s) 24 year year old future Hall of Famer, Miguel Cabrera, White Sox slugger, Joe Crede, Milwaukee’s versatile Bill Hall, former Dodger (and current Mariner) Adrian Beltre, Baltimore’s perennial all-star, Miguel Tejada, Blue Jay and former UCLA standout, Troy Glaus, Kansas City’s promising young, Mark Teahen, Colorado’s bruiser Garrett Atkins, Billy Beane’s favorite, Eric Chavez, Ranger’s young masher, Hank Blalock, Cardinal’s gold glover, Scott Rolen and Washington’s untouchable, Ryan Zimmerman. However, in each case demands for those players have far exceeded value and what the Dodgers could possibly afford to sacrifice from their everyday lineup. Much less appealing free agents have also been discussed such as Japanese star, Tadahito Iguchi and former Giant, Pedro Feliz. The MLB Winter Meetings have now concluded and not a single player listed is wearing Dodger blue.
There is one option out there that no one is talking about; a young, promising player with just as much potential as most of the players previously listed. He wouldn’t cost anything in terms of a trade and would not require an expensive, long-term contract. His name is Andy LaRoche, younger brother of Pirate’s power hitting first-baseman Adam LaRoche. He’s only 24 and has displayed amazing ability at the minor league level by consistently posting batting averages well above .300 and averaging a HR per every 20 at-bats at the AAA level (every 12 at-bats in single A). If carried over to the majors that would come out to roughly 28 HRs per year. LaRoche was given a look at the hot corner last season after injuries and ineffectiveness plagued the position but failed to impress former manager, Grady Little, and wasn’t given consistent playing time. Giving up on him is a little premature to say the least. If given a shot to start from day 1 at spring training he could be a big surprise. All young players have their ups and downs and it’s no different for Andy. He was most likely just experiencing growing pains last year and was a bit shell-shocked after making his major league debut in the limelight’s of Los Angeles. Managers have to be patient with promising young players like LaRoche and Joe Torre has proven to be the master in that regard. A Hall of Fame manager like Joe Torre could do wonders for the confidence of a young prospect like LaRoche. Knowing that your job is not in jeopardy if you don’t get a hit for a few games takes the pressure off a kid like that. Dodgers’ management should put more faith in the farm and realize that sometimes the answer is right under your nose all along.
If given a full season to prove his worth, LaRoche can do one of two things; either begin to fulfill his potential or hurt his trade value with a poor season. His potential is so vast that the smartest move in my opinion would be to see what you’ve got. Many scouts have projected LaRoche as a .300/30/100 guy at his prime which would make him all-star caliber and put him on an elite level at the position. That’s pretty much all you can ask for from a 3B and is exactly the type of player the Dodgers need. Dealing away prospects only to watch them become all-stars for another team is a deep-rooted fear in most general managers in Major League Baseball. The idea of trading away a young, inexpensive star for a more proven and more expensive vet seems to becoming less and less palatable to GMs and owners in today’s modern game. The flexibility that a team has when a homegrown star like that emerges is vital for building a world championship team. You’re basically getting millions and millions of dollars worth of production for a fraction of market value which gives your team the ability to add a starting pitcher, reliever or big bat when that player becomes available. There’s no question in my mind that Andy is the answer at 3B in ’08 for the Dodgers for multiple reasons but most of all for his production.
It has recently been reported by those covering the Team USA baseball team this winter that LaRoche has been hitting the tar out of the ball. He’s already posted several multi-HR games and is hitting for a very high average. This could be Andy’s year and I sure don’t want another team to find out.