Rongey: Chicago White Sox can only hope LaRoche rebounds
When Adam LaRoche signed with the Chicago White Sox, I didn't think it was fair to assume he would just be Adam Dunn, Part II.
However, on the surface, similarities were immediately drawn. They're both left-handed home run hitters coming from the National League. Both are named Adam.
And while there was no shortage of people predicting parallel outcomes, I didn't believe it was realistic to forecast the same level of disappointment for LaRoche as we saw in Dunn's historically unproductive first season in Chicago. After all, it was nearly impossible for a healthy 31-year-old who had hit nearly 40 home runs perennially for almost a decade to follow that up with just 11 of them.
The results for LaRoche, though, have been terribly inadequate. Maybe not to the same degree, as I think everyone expected much more from Dunn than we did from LaRoche, but it has hurt the White Sox offensively, especially early in the season when most of the lineup was struggling.
Dunn finished 2011 with 177 strikeouts and a .569 OPS. So far, LaRoche is at .634 for the season with a .208 batting average. The effect, much like the Dunn situation, is that it has placed the Sox in another difficult position.
As LaRoche is under contract for the remainder of this season and next, the team is again in a state where they can only hope to get him right. That means a flat-out benching is essentially out of the question, and designating him for assignment at this juncture won't happen with approximately $15 million still due to him.
Barring a trade, Adam LaRoche will be on the 25-man roster in 2016, which means the choice the White Sox are stuck with isn't really a choice at all. They have to try to help him get back closer to his career norms.
How do they do that? Well, here are their options within the non-choice:
1. Play him every day as normal. They could go this route, but I think it's more likely they …
2. Play him but find him more off days. It won't hurt to get LaRoche mental rest when possible, while also making sure he gets at-bats. The important part of this option, though, is that he makes adjustments, which doesn't seem to have happened yet.
3. Bench him and start Trayce Thompson instead. This recently happened for consecutive games, but the difficulty in doing it is in the reality that the outfield is crowded and Thompson must play the field when he's in the lineup. They could rotate Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton and Avi Garcia in the DH role, but there aren't a whole lot of reasons to remove any of them from the field, aside from giving rest when needed.
4. Use him primarily as a defensive replacement. Can't do this. It's a waste of a roster spot to have a guy only available to play first base in the ninth inning of a close game.
The difficulty of this situation is in there not being a clear decision, but I think option 2 (mixed with a little option 3) is the best course.
Like with Dunn, the White Sox need LaRoche to be his old self in order for the offense to show long-term consistency. And if you're the Sox or their fans looking for some sort of comfort, remember that Dunn did rebound in his second White Sox season with an .800 OPS, 41 home runs and an all-star appearance.
It isn't unusual for veteran players to have season-long slumps. It's also not unheard of for them to recover the following year. Right now, that's all the Sox can hope for.
• Chris Rongey is the host of the White Sox pregame and postgame shows on WSCR 670-AM The Score. Follow him on Twitter@ChrisRongey and at chrisrongey.com.