Adam LaRoche of the Arizona Diamondbacks drives in two runs with a single against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Chase Field on June 23, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
While the rumor mill has been heavy with chatter about the Cubs possibly signing free agent first baseman Adam Dunn, that doesn't seem likely to me. We know that Tom Ricketts is giving Jim Hendry a little less payroll money for 2011 than he had in 2010; fitting a hitter like Dunn into that payroll likely wouldn't work. The Cubs are already committed to over $100 million in payroll from existing contracts -- unless they can move some bad deals like Kosuke Fukudome's or Carlos Silva's, or even get someone to take parts of those deals -- and they're likely to be on the hook for fairly large salary increases for arb-eligible players like Geovany Soto, Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall.
Dunn would hit well in Wrigley Field. We all know that. We've also discussed his defensive shortcomings at length. He's probably looking for a multi-year deal that's too long for what the Cubs need at this point in time (and do we really need another backloaded deal?).
So, what about the "other" first base Adam -- Adam LaRoche? Three days ago, the Diamondbacks declined their club option on LaRoche, making him a free agent. He made $7.5 million last year while hitting .261/.320/.468. The .788 OPS was the lowest since his second full season (2005, with the Braves), but he hit 25 HR for the third straight year and drove in 100 runs for the first time in his career. He strikes out a lot -- not quite as much as Dunn -- and usually draws a decent number of walks. That walk total was also down in 2010, accounting for a fair portion of the OPS drop.
LaRoche is sort of Dunn-lite. The two are almost exactly the same age -- LaRoche was born on November 6, 1979; Dunn on November 9, 1979. They both generally stay healthy; LaRoche has played 140+ games five of the last six years. He's not a great defensive first baseman -- he made 11 errors last year -- but he's a better first baseman than Adam Dunn is.
This MLBTR post suggests LaRoche could possibly be had on a one-year deal for about $6 million. If the Cubs are serious about getting into the Adrian Gonzalez sweepstakes -- and this MLBTR post suggests the Padres are willing to deal him -- then LaRoche might be a good one-year stopgap, far better than Nick Johnson, who is always, always, always injured.
Have at it.