Here are the results of our community projection for Adam LaRoche:
Tommy came the closest, guessing LaRoche would hit .270/.343/.495. Several others were very close.
I guess ZiPS did a little better than the community, but there isn't much to argue about here either way. LaRoche has become a remarkably consistent player year-to-year, which is funny for a player who's so incredibly frustrating. He's become an underrated player: given his above-average defense at his position (one of the few Pirates who can claim that title), he's about an average starting first baseman. Given the number of his peers who have stratospheric salaries (Albert Pujols, Jason Giambi, Carlos Delgado, Todd Helton, Mark Teixeira, Paul Konerko, Lance Berkman, Ryan Howard, Richie Sexson and Derrek Lee all made at least $10 million this year) and the number of relatively young first basemen who've either won MVPs or been serious contenders for them (Prince Fielder, Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis), an average first baseman for $5 million is a very good deal. It's hard to find someone who hits well enough to play there.
The pattern for LaRoche was the same as last year: absolutely nothing in April (.472 OPS), nothing special in May or June, and then a mad dash to make up for lost time. He seems resigned to the idea that he's going to continue hitting like this; if that's true, one shudders to think of what the beginnings of his seasons will look like in a few years, after he's lost a step.
Taking LaRoche to arbitration for a final time should be a no-brainer--at around $7 million, he's still a good value. He's a free agent after 2009, and given his long swing, lack of speed, and inability to hit before the All-Star break, it would be unwise to offer him a long-term deal. He should be shopped at the deadline--the Pirates will be able to sell him as a great stretch-run upgrade for a contending team, whether he hits in early 2009 or not.