For those of you not spending New Year's Eve following Twitter updates on the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Sun writer Dan Connolly (@DanConnollySun) reported late this afternoon that the Baltimore Orioles and free agent first baseman Derrek Lee had agreed on a one-year deal, the terms of which were not disclosed as of 6:12 pm EST on Friday night. "It's official: #Orioles have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with 1B Derrek Lee," Mr. Connolly wrote. A source told Jeff Zrebiec, Mr. Connolly's colleague at the Sun, about the deal according to Mr. Connolly's tweet and not long after the initial report, MLB.com's Bill Ladson followed up with an article entitled, "Nationals offer LaRoche two-year deal", in which he quoted a "baseball source" who said that Washington offered the 31-year-old former Braves, Pirates, Red Sox and D-Backs' first baseman a two-year deal which MASNSports.com's Jen Royle (JenRoyleMASN) is reporting could be a, "...multi-year deal in the $8-9 million per year range."
LaRoche has reportedly been seeking a 3-year deal this Winter after signing for 1-year/$6M dollars with the Arizona Diamondbacks last January. As of last week, MLB.com's Bill Ladson was reporting that the Nats were "actively" pursuing the 35-year-old Derrek Lee, the former Cubs and Braves' first baseman who was rumored to be willing to accept a one-year deal after struggling at the plate last season and undergoing surgery on his thumb once Atlanta was eliminated from postseason play. In an article entitled, "Nationals targeting Lee to fill first-base void", MLB.com's Mr. Ladson wrote that after Carlos Pena (long rumored to be D.C. GM Mike Rizzo's top choice to replace Adam Dunn, who he left D.C. after two years to sign for 4-years/$56M dollars with the Chicago White Sox) signed with Chicago's Cubs for 1-year/$10M, it was, "...assumed that Adam LaRoche would be Washington's next target, but talks don't appear to be serious between the two parties."
Lee's decision to sign with the O's, however, seems to have forced the Nats' hand. With no option on the current roster outside of Michael Morse that could replace Dunn at first, and the top first base prospects (Tyler Moore and Chris Marrero) thought to be a year or two away from the majors by the most generous estimates, Washington seems to have little choice but to sign LaRoche, who's .261/.320/.468 slash line, 37 doubles and 25 HR's last year in Arizona were all just a little below career averages.
The one-time Atlanta Braves' draft pick, taken in the 29th Round of the 2000 Draft, who was worth 1.2 WAR last year according to Baseball-Reference.com, 2.1 WAR according to Fangraphs.com, made 11 errors at first, posting a .991 fld% with a +4.9 UZR/150 in 146 games for Arizona, which is slightly better than what Adam Dunn did defensively, (Dunn made 13 errors, had a .990 fld% and -3.3 UZR/150 in his first full year at first in 2010), but Dunn's 3.9 WAR, .260/.356/.536 slash line, 36 doubles and 38 HR's are going to be missed by a Nats' team that's completely revamped the middle of their order, losing Dunn and trading Josh Willingham already this winter and replacing them with former Phillies' outfielder Jayson Werth and now LaRoche (if the two sides can agree on a deal...)
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo has said all winter that the focus going forward was going to be on, "pitching, defense, speed and athleticism," which are essential traits of championship teams in his mind. Do Werth, signed to a 7-year/$126M dollar deal on the eve of the Winter Meetings, and LaRoche fit that model more than Willingham and Adam Dunn? Will Washington fans buy Adam LaRoche as a replacement for Dunn?