One game. Four plate appearances. That’s the totality of Andy LaRoche‘s big-league impact with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013 — and no, he didn’t get a hit either.
Still, that hasn’t stopped the team from keeping the less-heralded LaRoche brother within the organization going into 2014 with a minor league deal. The transaction itself isn’t particularly notable at he’s certainly not the first 30-year old journeyman to garner this sort of deal to play in the minors as a last-resort backup, but then again … the Blue Jays have kind of had their share of last resort situations, no?
That brings up the question: could he find his way to the bigs for more than just one game in 2014?
Given that the team already has Brett Lawrie entrenched at the position next season, you’d think that LaRoche probably won’t be a familiar face in Toronto next season even as a bench player given his lack of multi-positional versatility. Then again, this is a team that played Maicer Izturis and Mark DeRosa a combined 61 times at third base (49 starts) in 2013 when health problems struck, so stranger things have happened.
Besides, is Lawrie really that much of a sure thing? After an injury-riddled, ineffective year, it’s hard to say whether or not the Blue Jays’ third baseman of the future can be the third baseman of the present that they need to compete over the next 2-3 years. Should the team somehow be able to rid themselves of Izturis and if Lawrie gets himself on the DL again, it’s not entirely unreasonable for the team to give LaRoche a shot.
Not to say that he’d necessarily be the team’s answer to that kind of problem, but it is worth mentioning that he does continue to have a good minor league track record (.271/.339/.433 triple-slash over 413 PA in triple-A in 2013); and the last time that he was given a regular job back in 2009? He was a 2.4 fWAR player with a .731 OPS.
Being that this is a team on the verge of more major change this offseason, moves like the LaRoche deal, however minor they may seem, could end up coming into play in the construction of the major league lineup in 2014. While Toronto would rather it not get to that point since the veteran hasn’t shown to be a viable major league quantity in a number of years, the Blue Jays should know better than most teams that some late bloomers just need a chance sometimes.
So for now, minor league depth is exactly what he is, but given what fans have seen out of the team at the hot corner over the last two years, the majors for LaRoche could just be one significant wrong turn by the Blue Jays away.