66-96 or 69-93? Destined to, or at least expected to battle for fourth place in the AL East or NL East? Is it surprising that neither Derrek Lee or Adam LaRoche has signed yet this winter? LaRoche is looking for a multi-year deal, and D. Lee's holding out for a West Coast team that's hopefully a playoff contender, but at the moment the two free agent first basemen's options seem limited to either the Baltimore Orioles or the Washington Nationals with both supposedly set to sign soon but unsure of their destinations. FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote last night in an article entitled, "O's want D. Lee; does D. Lee want O's?", that Baltimore had shifted its focus (again?) from signing LaRoche to pursuing the 34-year-old Lee, but, "The question is whether the Orioles can satisfy Lee competitively, financially and geographically," and, "how strongly the Nationals remain in the mix," for the former San Diego Padres' 1st Round pick who's played for the Padres, Marlins, Cubs and Braves over the course of his 14-year career.
The Padres signed Brad Hawpe to play first last week, but according to Mr. Rosenthal (who'd reported earlier this winter on Twitter (@Ken_Rosenthal) that Lee was looking for the same $8-10M per that Lance Berkman (1-year/$8M) got from the Cardinals and Carlos Pena (1-year/$10M) got from the Cubs), San Diego, "offered Lee a one-year deal for more than $8 million," before turning to Hawpe, and the FOXSports.com writer suspects that Lee, "would want similar money from the Orioles or Nationals, if not more."
Lee and Adam LaRoche, who's holding out for something in the area of 3-years/$21M according to reports, are the top two options left on the market, but as Mr. Rosenthal points out, Jorge Cantu, Russell Branyan, Troy Glaus and Casey Kotchman (who's been mentioned as a fallback option for the Nats) remain available should the top FA's demand too much or choose not to sign with one of the two Mid-Atlantic teams.
The Washington Nationals let Adam Dunn and his 38-40 HR's and 100 RBI's per walk after failing (or choosing not) to trade him last July at the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline and failing (or choosing not) to agree on a contract before the 31-year-old slugger hit free agency. Dunn signed for the 4-years (and $56M) he wanted all along, and the Nats weren't willling to give him, so Washington turned their attentions toward former Tampa Rays' first baseman Carlos Pena, who signed with Chicago. If not Lee and LaRoche (or possibly Kotchman), the Nats could turn to unproven former shortstop and outfielder Michael Morse, who's played all of 37 games at first base (19 last season, 11 in '09, 5 in '07 and 2 in '06) over the course of his 6-year-career, during which he's never played more than 98 games total. Can Washington afford to settle for Morse? And what's the backup plan if he fails?
Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman said in an early December interview with Chad Dukes and LaVar Arrington yesterday on 106.7 The Fan in DC, that when he spoke to Nats fans, they were, "...very adamant about putting Mike Morse over there. I get a lot of comments about that from people, 'Just put Mike over there,' [and] that's certainly an option, there's a couple left-handed hitters we still have our eye on though." LaRoche is the one big left-handed bat still available. Will the Nats be willing to give him three years?
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal writes that the 31-year-old, .271/.339/.448, 40 double, 26 HR and 93 RBI per/162 game threat, "...appeals to the Nationals," who've shown no sign, however that they're willing to offer LaRoche a 3-year deal...at least not publically. Should D.C. GM Mike Rizzo go 3-years for LaRoche? Give Lee $8-10M+ and hope he rebounds to previous standards or sign Kotchman as part of a platoon with Morse as MLB.com's Bill Ladson suggested last week? Both the O's and Nats are reportedly focused on Lee...and would likely rather give out one year than three. Is this the least exciting free agent sweepstakes ever?