If Adam LaRoche had signed with the SF Giants in 2010, the season probably wouldn’t have ended with a World Series title.
If he had accepted that contract, Giants history, at least as it pertains to 2010, might look a bit different.
LaRoche’s decision to pass on the Giants eventually led to the team signing polarizing first baseman Aubrey Huff to a one-year pact.
Following the 2009 season, the Giants had an obvious need for a first baseman and no one within the organization who could fill that need.
Travis Ishikawa saw substantial time at first base in 2009. In 120 games, the left-handed bat posted a .261/.329/.387 (97 OPS+) line with nine home runs and 39 RBI across 363 plate appearances. It was evident that the Giants wanted more production out of the first base position than what the former 21st-round pick was offering.
Ishikawa’s playing time diminished toward the end of that season as San Francisco made a surprising playoff push. At the trade deadline, general manager Brian Sabean struck a trade to acquire Cleveland Indians first baseman Ryan Garko in exchange for pitching prospect Scott Barnes.
Interestingly, this move led Ishikawa to start getting work in the outfield as a means to expand his versatility. This would prove to pay dividends down the road for both the Giants and Ishikawa.
However, the Garko trade did not work out as the Giants anticipated. The Stanford University product recorded a meager .235/.307/.330 (68 OPS+) in 127 plate appearances following the trade.
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After just 40 games in the Orange and Black, the Giants decided to part ways with the former fourth-round pick.
This made Garko a free agent and put the Giants back on the market for a first baseman.
The free-agent class for first baseman in the 2010 offseason left a lot to be desired. Nick Johnson and Adam LaRoche headlined that year’s batch of first baseman, but the drop-off from there was steep.
San Francisco was rumored to have interest in the oft-injured Johnson, but they pivoted toward LaRoche, instead.
The Giants made a legitimate offer to the first baseman, but it was not enough to get LaRoche to put pen to paper:
LaRoche went on to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks on a one-year, $6 million pact. The deal was meant for the first baseman to re-establish value so that he could enter the market again the very next season.
With the Diamondbacks in 2010, LaRoche posted a .261/.320/.468 (106 OPS+) line with 25 home runs, 100 RBI, 75 runs scored while being worth 1.1 WAR across 615 plate appearances.
He had a very nice season with Arizona, but what if he signed with the Giants, instead? San Francisco snuck into the playoffs on the final day of the season with a 92-70 overall record.
They finished the season just two games ahead of the San Diego Padres. There was no margin for error.
On the surface, LaRoche produced appealing counting stats in terms of home runs, runs scored, and RBI. However, at 1.1 WAR, the overall value he contributed on the field was in the same range as a substitute or bench player.
For comparison purposes, the Giants primary first baseman, Huff, was worth 5.7 WAR in 2010. If WAR is to be used literally, which can often be misleading, then LaRoche’s decision to pass on the Giants may have netted them an additional 4.6 wins.
Given this, it is not difficult to imagine the Giants missing the 2010 playoffs had they landed their top first base target.
LaRoche’s decision to spurn the Giants may have been a favorable move for both the team and player.
Following his time with Arizona, LaRoche went on to score a pair of lucrative two-year contracts with the Washington Nationals. Oracle Park can be a suffocating environment for left-handed power hitters, and LaRoche may have hurt his future earnings potential if he had struggled to produce in San Francisco as so many left-handed bats have.
Interestingly, LaRoche’s time with the Nationals came to an end after the Giants knocked his team out of the playoffs in 2014.
The left-handed slugger went on to sign a two-year contract with the Chicago White Sox, but he shockingly retired midway through the deal. White Sox team president Kenny Williams requested that LaRoche limit the amount of time his son spent in the clubhouse.
This request frustrated LaRoche to the point where he walked away from the final season of his deal.
The Giants may not have won their first championship in 56 years had LaRoche taken them up on the offer. Winning a championship requires a lot of pieces to fall into place while getting hot at the right time.
Sometimes, it is the piece that gets away that changes history. In the case with the Giants, LaRoche’s decision to reject their offer may have been the best thing for the organization.