It's not done yet...but it's getting there. MLB.com's Bill Ladson first reported on free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche's interest in playing for the Washington Nationals in an article entitled, "LaRoche has interest in playing for Nationals", in the first week of December, and the MLB.com writer was back yesterday with a report entitled, "Talks progressing between Nationals, LaRoche", in which he wrote that a source told him the Nats and LaRoche were, "not far apart when it comes to getting a deal done." While LaRoche has been (again reportedly) looking for a 3-year/$21 million dollar deal all winter, both Mr. Ladson and MASNSports.com's Phil Wood had written, as Mr. Wood did on New Year's Eve in an article entitled, "Nats move off Lee, toward LaRoche", that the Nationals were only, "...willing to give Adam LaRoche a two-year deal," which Mr. Wood's colleague at MASNSports.com, Jen Royle, had reported on Twitter (@MASNJenRoyle) would be for somewhere, "...in the $8-9 million per year range."
Boston Globe.com baseball writer Nick Cafardo had speculated this past Sunday, in an article entitled, "Bargain hunters cooking up plans at the Hot Stove", that the Nationals, who "overpaid for Jayson Werth...may give [Adam] LaRoche the three-year deal he's seeking," in order to convince him to join the nation's capital's NL East cellar dwellers. In MLB.com's article on LaRoche's interest in playing for the Nats, however, the 31-year-old 2000 29th Round pick by the Braves, who made two-straight playoff appearances in his first two major league seasons and hasn't returned to the postseason since, said that the 7-year/$126 million dollar deal the Nationals gave Werth, "...shows how serious the Nationals are about getting the organization back on track and becoming a contender in the National League East,":
"'They are probably tired of watching other teams [spend money and winning]. With the ballpark [Nationals Park] and a little money to spend, they are looking to start over."
(ed. note - "Not 'start over', exactly, Adam, but the Nats will fill you in on the Phase II stuff when you sign.")
Late last night, the story moved out of the Mid-Atlantic region, with FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi writing, in an article entitled, "Nationals in serious talks with free agent LaRoche", that though the deal wasn't done as of Monday evening, "...one person with knowledge of the talks said confidence is growing on both sides that the first baseman will end up in D.C."
The Nationals let Adam Dunn walk after failing to trade (or failing to find an adequate return for) their big-middle-of-the-order bat at the Non-Waiver Deadline and failing to agree on a new contract to keep him in the nation's capital before he became a free agent. Dunn signed for 4-years/$56 million dollars with the Chicago White Sox, who had tried to trade for the slugger the previous July, and the Nats then turned their attention to former Rays' first baseman Carlos Pena, who signed a 1-year/$10 million dollar deal to play in Chicago's North Side. Derrek Lee, who was also reportedly on the Nats' radar, signed for one year (and $8-9 million) with the Baltimore Orioles this past weekend.
LaRoche, who posted a .261/.320/.468 slash line last season with 37 doubles, 25 HR's and 100 RBI's playing on a 1-year/$6.0 million dollar deal with the Arizona D-Backs, always wanted to be a catcher, but he was injured (torn PCL) in college and moved from behind the plate to the infield. The left-hander was sought after by Major League teams coming out of college, but they initially wanted to draft the son of former Major League reliever Dave LaRoche as a pitcher, and Adam refused to go to any team that wouldn't draft him as a hitter, as he explained to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette baseball writer Chuck Finder in a July '09 article entitled, "Adam and Andy LaRoche are savoring time together as Pirates":
"'Coming out of college, every major league team wanted me as a pitcher,' said Adam. 'There weren't any scouts that wanted me as a hitter. I think my quote was, 'I won't sign for $10 million as a pitcher, no matter who drafts me.' After coming out and saying that, I think some of them closed their books on me, 'Who's this kid think he is?'"
The Atlanta Braves (and then-Scouting Director Roy Clark, now an Asst. GM and VP of Player Personnel in D.C.) finally drafted LaRoche as a hitter in the 29th Round of the 2000 Draft, with LaRoche's mother recounting in the Post-Gazette's Mr. Finder's article that, "'The Braves [who drafted him in 2000's 29th round] were the ones who said 'We're not sure. ...If he can't [hit], we still have a great pitcher.'" LaRoche would make his MLB debut four years later with Atlanta, hitting 27 doubles and 13 HR's in his first 110 games with the Braves in 2004, and he's averaged a .271/.339/.488 slash line with 40 doubles, 26 HR's and 93 RBI's per 162 games over his first seven major league seasons.