By Bruce Levine–
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — At about 8:30 a.m. Arizona time on Tuesday, Adam LaRoche told the Chicago White Sox that he planned to retire from baseball. A 36-year-old first baseman/designated hitter, LaRoche also met with teammates and other White Sox officials earlier this morning before summoning reporters from the two Chicago newspapers to make it all but official.READ MORE: Woman With Concealed Carry Permit Shoots At Wound-Be Gunpoint Carjacker In Roseland
LaRoche cited personal issues for the reason he was stepping away from the team and the game. It was a decision that White Sox general manager Rick Hahn admitted “surprised” him and his teammates, who asked him to reconsider. LaRoche told them he’ll continue to think for a day or so, though every expectation is he’ll retire.
“He is a man of great conviction,” Hahn said. “I don’t necessarily see him having a change of heart. That said, giving the outpouring he heard from his teammates, as well as those of us around the office, certainly there is a potential that the changes his mind.”
Hahn told LaRoche to take a few days to think about the decision before they made it an official retirement.
“I don’t think it’s a decision by any means he took lightly,” Hahn said. “He gave it a great deal of thought and spoke with his family about it. In the end, we respect his choice.”
LaRoche hadn’t played in 10 days due to a back injury that occurred on March 4. LaRoche appeared to be getting close to return from that injury, Hahn said. LaRoche had his worst season on a 12-year career in 2015. After signing a two-year, $25-million contract, he posted career lows with a .207 batting average and .634 OPS with just 12 homers and 44 RBIs in 127 games.
This possible retirement would return $13 million to the White Sox that LaRoche would have earned in 2016. If he’s done, the team will pursue other options both internally and externally to replace LaRoche, Hahn said.READ MORE: Jury Selection Under Way In Jussie Smollett Trial
“We wanted to build a roster that had protection,” Hahn said. “We didn’t see retirement being one of the options. This is not much different from an injury or under-performance situation.
“At this point, it’s simply too early to know how it will exactly play out.”
The White Sox had kicked the tires on Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (two years and $37 million let on his contract) and Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier (two years and$35 million left, with a $17.5 million vesting option for 2018). Those options are back on the table now.
Playing about half his games at friendly Coors Field, the 30-year-old Gonzalez hit .271 with 40 homers, 97 RBIs and an .864 OPS in 153 games in 2015. That marked the first time since 2010 that he played at least 145 games.
Ethier hit .294 with 14 homers, 53 RBIs and an .852 OPS in 142 games last season.
Chicago’s payroll will drop to about $113 million if LaRoche follows through on his retirement plans.MORE NEWS: Bond Set At $500,000 For Brendan Wydajewski, Accused In DUI Crash That Killed 3 People; Prosecutors Say He Was Driving Drunk At 122 MPH
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.