Hot Stove Roundup:

Steve O Speak

Marlins Spend Money: Stop the presses the Florida Marlins have signed Josh Johnson to a four year extension. Given the recent pressure from the players union for the Marlins to spend more money, its not a huge surprise they made the signing. Florida couldn’t have spent their money any better, as Johnson was an ace for them last season, going 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA and 191 K’s. The signing of Johnson will hopefully show their fans a sign of commitment, that people might actually come out to watch one of the better young and exciting teams in baseball. Johnson along with Hanley Ramirez, give the Marlins a pitcher and hitter to build around going forward. And will give them the superstars to get them into their new ballpark in 2012. I don’t think this signing is a total change in philosophy for the Marlins, as I’d still expect to see a few of their arbitration eligible players traded before the season. Still, its nice to see Florida lock up another one of their young stars.

D-Backs land LaRoche: Adam LaRoche finally has a home and its a bit of a curious choice for both sides involved. The Diamondbacks got an upgrade at 1B, but its a fairly small one considering they already had Connor Jackson and Brandon Allen for the position. This signing will allow Jackson to play LF, but he’s never been that good defensively out there, so it is hard to see how that makes sense. In addition the Diamondbacks have some young OF’s that should be major league ready soon. Jackson will give Arizona protection against LaRoche’s kryptonite, tough left-handers, but doesn’t give them much else. The signing of LaRoche also pushes back the start date of Brandon Allen. Allen is a big time power prospect (though he’s not yet a refined player) who is just about ready for the majors. While it may have made some sense to add a 1B to give Allen a bit more time, LaRoche seems like the wrong choice for the job. If you are signing a stop gap, it should be someone who is cheaper that you could move to the bench when Allen is ready. Also, Laroche is a notorious slow starter, so even if they were planning on trading him in June/July to make room for Allen, they are paying him to have his worst months of the year (and lower his trade value).

As for LaRoche its a bit of a curious move as well. Ignoring the money factor (which its rumored that he turned down more money from the Giants) I don’t understand this move for LaRoche. He had reported interest by both the Giants, and Orioles, and either one of them seemed like a better fit for LaRoche. The Giants are a playoff caliber team (and would have even been more so if LaRoche signed), while the Diamondbacks are going to struggle to finish 4th in that division. While the Giants have one of the more anemic lineups in baseball, it has gotten closer to league average, which is about as good as Arizona’s. Also by signing with the Giants, LaRoche could have avoided facing Lincecum and Cain multiple times a year. While part of the reason might have been the more spacious confines of AT&T Park over Chase Field, that doesn’t explain the choice of Arizona over Baltimore.

The Orioles like the Diamondbacks aren’t really in the playoff hunt this coming season, but unlike both the Giants and Diamondbacks, they would have offered a lineup that would only benefit LaRoche. Most days LaRoche would likely hit 4th or 5th in the O’s lineup (unless it was a really tough lefty). He’d have Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis hitting in front of him, with Matt Wieters, Noland Reimold, and Garrett Atkins hitting behind him (as well as Luke Scott/Felix Pie factored somewhere in the equation as well). Already that is a lineup far superior to anything the Giants or D-Backs could field, and if Wieters, Jones, and Reimold reach their potential, that could be a top 5 lineup. If LaRoche was looking to park his bat for one season in hopes of increasing his numbers (and with it his value) he couldn’t have done much better than Baltimore. As for ballpark factor, Camden Yards overall isn’t quite as good as Chase Field, but its a better home run park, and the AL East’s parks are far better hitting parks then those in the NL West. Maybe LaRoche really wanted to play in Arizona or the O’s didn’t offer nearly as much money, whatever the reason it seems like a strange call for LaRoche to go out there.

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