Adam LaRoche must earn his keep.
While the veteran isn’t the only player the White Sox have said they need more production from this weekend at SoxFest, he has been a focal point of a few fan questions critical of the club’s play.
The White Sox have no plans to simply cut LaRoche without seeing what he can provide them. But he won’t just receive a free pass, either.
Starting with Rick Hahn’s “no scholarships” comment on Friday, the White Sox have made it clear they intend to put their best hitters in the lineup, regardless of their contract situation.
In an attempt to help him escape the worst slump of his career, the White Sox continued to play LaRoche -- who is set to earn $13.5 million in 2016 -- late into the 2015 season. But White Sox manager Robin Ventura backed Hahn’s statement on Saturday when asked about LaRoche.
“He's gotta go into spring training and earn a job and earn the right to play,” Ventura said.
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
With how the roster currently is constructed, Ventura has few left-handed power options. He may only have hit 12 home runs and slugged .340 last season, but the White Sox are hopeful LaRoche can rediscover the form that has led him to at least 20 homers in 10 seasons. They’ve added Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie, but the White Sox still could use more power in the lineup after they hit 136 homers last season, the team’s fewest since 1992.
“You always need power,” Ventura said. “It’s hard to win without it. It’s hard to play against a team that has it. It’s instant offense, you get runs right away and it’s the quickest way to either get back in the game or pull ahead in the game. In the ballpark that we play in it’s important to have it because other teams have it.”
Ventura could use more bodies. That much is clear.
The White Sox need to further insulate themselves from injuries or poor performance if they want to contend in the American League Central. They’re in good shape now, but would vastly improve those chances with extra players. Though Hahn wouldn’t promise any more additions before Opening Day, he said he intends to continue to search for them.
“The more options, the easier it is for Robin to go with the best lineup,” Hahn said. “So if there is -- whether it’s the group that we have today or another addition -- it will create a situation where the best guys are going to play. And certainly would love to put Robin in a spot where he has more quality choices to make and he’s able to use the lineup card as a meritocracy and the best guys play.”