The Arizona Diamondbacks agreed to terms with first baseman Adam LaRoche. Ho hum. Until you realize that this move did two things: Conor Jackson will move to left field, and the Diamondbacks released left fielder Eric Byrnes.
LaRoche is an offensive upgrade over Jackson. The last four seasons, LaRoche has put up a 122, 122, 109 and 130 OPS+ with an on base percentage of .355, .341, .345 and .354. LaRoche is 30 years old and his peak years are behind him, but he is by no means an old man. It would not be far fetched to say that he will contribute 20 home runs and a .350 OBP. If the Diamondbacks can find a decent platoon partner to hit the left handed pitchers, they might have a real force at first base. Check out LaRoche's numbers versus right handed pitchers.
Jackson gets on base more than LaRoche, but he has less pop. He will move to left field in place of Byrnes and whoever else they trotted out there last year. Jackson was injured last year, but the three seasons prior, he sported a 109, 109 and 103 OPS+ and got on base at a .376, .368 and .368 clip. He figures to only improve on those numbers as he enters his prime years. Since Byrnes signed that big three year contract after the very nice 2007 season, he did not have an OBP higher than .272 or an OPS+ of 67. Incredible. He was also injured, which was unfortunately his best offensive contribution.
Jackson turns 28 this year, and easily the Diamondbacks have a very nice, young outfield. In addition to Jackson, the disappointing but entering his peak Chris Young will play center field and the breakout MVP candidate Justin Upton will play right field. If Young is going to have a future in this game, this will be the year he shows his talent. He will start the year at 26. So far, he has proven that he can take a walk, but he can't make much contact with the ball. When he was a rookie and made contact with the ball, he was hitting moonshots. His home runs have dropped from 32 to 22 to 15 in each of the last three years. Upton was an emerging super duper star with slash stats of .300/.366/.532. Those numbers are great, but he hasn't even tapped into his awesomeness. He will only be 22 years old to start the season, and you can only expect those numbers to go up each year.
And if this is true, the LaRoche signing has added a whole new level of awesomeness. So the Diamondbacks get rid of Byrnes AND he goes to the division rival San Francisco Giants? Sure, at this point, the interest is one-sided, but you know if GM Brian Sabean picks up the paper and sees that column, he will begin to draft a two year contract with a player option third year.