MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

LaRoche walks away from baseball, $13 million

White Sox teammates try to coax DH/first baseman back for last year on contract

LaRoche walks away from baseball, $13 million

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Adam LaRoche is retiring from baseball. And in the process, he is walking away from $13 million.

LaRoche, 36, stunned the Chicago White Sox organization Tuesday by announcing his retirement. In a lengthy clubhouse meeting, players voiced their affection and respect for him in an attempt to change his mind.

But LaRoche left Camelback Ranch still intending to retire. He told reporters that his reasons for retiring were personal, but that he would reveal more about what went into his decision at a later date.

It wasn't only baseball that LaRoche walked away from. If he stays with his decision to retire, he will be forfeiting $13 million, which is the amount left on the two-year, $25 milllion contract he signed with the Sox after the 2014 season.

Retirement in these circumstances can be seen as both surprising and admirable.

"We've always known this was a high-character guy," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "And if this is the end, then this is a guy who had a very solid, extensive big league career and, in the end, was playing this game for the right reasons and not strictly the economic ones."

Hahn said he doubted that LaRoche would change his mind despite the organizational support for him remaining with the White Sox.

"He woke up this morning quite resolute in his decision-making," Hahn said. "I don't know if he quite expected what he was going to hear from his teammates, the coaches and the rest of us. We just asked him to be sure he was comfortable with everything and what route he wanted to go. This is a very thoughtful individual, a very strong-willed individual, who believes in his convictions.

"He was pretty resolute in what he wanted to do. But he certainly heard from his teammates [on] the importance of his role in the clubhouse and how much respect they all had for him. There was an outpouring of support for Adam in that clubhouse today, no doubt about it."

LaRoche had a career slash line of .260/.336/.462, but he was far below that kind of productivity in 2015 with the Sox when he went .207/.293./340.

Over his 12-year Major League career, LaRoche had been much better than that. His best season may have been 2012, when he won both Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards while playing first base for the Washington Nationals. LaRoche had a career-high 33 home runs that season. He was primarily a DH with the White Sox, but he also had 44 starts at first last year.

LaRoche was not a particularly vocal presence in a clubhouse. But despite that and despite his struggles last season, he was regarded as a leader on this club.

LaRoche had been limited to two Cactus League games this spring by back spasms. But Hahn said that condition had been improving.

Asked if LaRoche's retirement was injury-related, Hahn said, "I think we're going to let Adam speak for himself on that. I think he said it was a personal decision. I'm going to respect his desire to keep it as such."

White Sox players said they were saddened by LaRoche's decision, but they respected it.

Third baseman Todd Frazier, who has a locker next to LaRoche at Camelback Ranch, said: "I'm going to miss him. He's a really good guy, and you have to respect his decision. You know, I love the guy to death, and I've known him for a month now. He's going to be missed."

Frazier said that attempting to talk LaRoche into changing his mind was a natural reaction.

"I mean, why not?" Frazier said. "A guy of that caliber, he's been around for a long time. We want him to be on the squad. We want him to go with us. He just made his own decision."

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, 37, said that when he joined the Sox this spring, LaRoche jokingly thanked him for taking over the role as the oldest player on the team.

"We always said we would play together," Rollins said. "But it looks like we won't be playing together as long as we wanted to.

"I've enjoyed playing against him all these years, the battles we've had in the NL East. I didn't like to see those bombs that he was hitting off of us, but he was one of those guys that you watched because everything was so almost effortless.

"We had some good battles, but we had some great conversations down at first base. It was always a joy."

Anybody looking for clues on LaRoche's direction got one from what he tweeted Tuesday afternoon: "Thank u Lord for the game of baseball and for giving me way more than I ever deserved! #FamilyFirst."

LaRoche had a very substantial career. And he also created a remarkable ending to that career, stepping away from baseball and $13 million. There are not a lot of people who could have taken that step.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.