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Would you surrender next year's first rounder for LaRoche?

Adam LaRocheWashington NationalsJim JohnsonMatt WietersLos Angeles AngelsMike Trout

The Adam LaRoche dilemma for the Orioles is an interesting one to me.

But apparently, at least from those who responded to my Twitter account Monday, it’s pretty simple: Most of those readers believe the Orioles need to sign LaRoche because he fills the Orioles’ two primary needs: he plays a great first base and has a powerful bat. Any other variation is just an excuse. Most of you don’t want to hear anything else.

What I wrote Monday was that one of the things that gives – or should give – the Orioles pause is that if they sign LaRoche they will surrender their first round pick in the 2013 draft, which is the 24th overall. This is due to the new collective bargaining agreement and the fact the Washington Nationals offered LaRoche a qualifying offer which he turned down.

No one will get that pick – it will just go away. The Orioles highest pick in June would then be the 34th overall (that one is 35th now), which is one of the new competitive balance selections.

There are other reasons why LaRoche may not end up as an Oriole. At 33, he’s looking for a three-year deal, likely worth more than $10 million each season. He’d love to return to Washington and he wants to win, and the Nats are a good bet to do that.

There is some sense that any attempt to sign LaRoche would be futile anyway, that it would just end up as a negotiating ploy in his inevitable return to Washington. But let’s step away from that speculation for a moment and just look at the most interesting aspect of this.

It’s really a philosophical question: What’s more valuable to the Orioles right now? A 33-year-old proven hitter and defender who has had injury troubles in the past but is effective when healthy and will be locked up until he is 35 or a first-round draft pick? Last year at this time, the answer had to be the draft pick. But now that the Orioles made the playoffs, should that answer change?

My guess is that many in the Orioles organization will tell you the draft pick is more essential. Because if they hit on it, they’ll have that player for six full seasons, and the initial financial outlay will be a couple million at most. And the administration wants this to be about winning for years and not just for the short term.
      My guess is that Orioles fans will tell you LaRoche is more essential, because the Orioles have hit on so few first-rounders over the last decade-plus (with most higher than the 24th pick). That the draft, in its very nature, is a crapshoot. And that the Orioles’ window for winning isn’t open wide yet.

My guess is executive vice president Dan Duquette and his scouting/development staff will tell you that the past failures aren’t part of the equation. It’s a new regime that has confidence in its abilities to discover and mine the right talent. (And I’m sure someone will point out that Los Angeles Angels’ superstar Mike Trout was the 25th overall pick just three years ago).

I know Duquette views his draft picks as gold – and believes the draft is one prudent way to rebuild a franchise in a lasting and cost-effective manner. So I think losing the top pick would be something he’d have to at least mull seriously.

And I’m certain that a large chunk of you will tell me this is just an excuse not to spend money and that the Orioles will never be good consistently and they’ll never spend the money it takes to win. Well, if that’s the case, then there’s no point in debating it.

But for those of you who want to take the emotional scars out of it and want to look at it objectively, I’m really curious as to your opinion. The Orioles won 93 games last year and haven’t gotten better this offseason while other teams in the division have. And LaRoche would make them better.

Yet, one of the primary reasons the Orioles surged in 2012 was the emergence of some of their drafted talent (and players brought in through trades of some of their homegrown talent). And if they can find another Manny Machado or Jim Johnson or Matt Wieters in the first round, that certainly could make the future brighter.

It’s sort of a ‘now or the future’ question. An ‘established commodity or higher ceiling’ question.

Daily Think Special: Would you surrender a first-round pick to sign Adam LaRoche?

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Adam LaRocheWashington NationalsJim JohnsonMatt WietersLos Angeles AngelsMike Trout
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