When the Washington Nationals signed Adam LaRoche to a 2-year/$16M dollar deal in early 2011, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo described the then-31-year-old veteran of seven MLB seasons as, "... [one] of the most consistent players that there are." The GM was asked at the time what LaRoche offered as opposed to the player he'd be replacing at first, Adam Dunn, who'd walked as a free agent after two years in D.C. in which he'd hit 38 HRs each season while driving in 105 and then 103 runs in consecutive campaigns in which he was worth +1.1 fWAR and +3.5 fWAR in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Rizzo actually said that LaRoche and Dunn were, "... two of the most consistent players," around and continued to contrast them as he explained the decision.
"You can look at their numbers consistently and you can more or less draw a conclusion of what [LaRoche] is going to bring offensively to the table," Rizzo said, "Defensively, he's going to bring run prevention and I think that's going to help balance our club much more. I think we're going to score runs, but we're going to score runs maybe in a different manner than we did last year. We've got the personnel now to go first to third, second to home, scoring from first base and manufacturing some runs where I don't think we did last year."
LaRoche's first year in Washington didn't go as planned, of course, a small tear of the labrum ended up being a large tear after the first baseman tried to play through the problem that cropped up in Spring Training, sapped his power and resulted in his producing a .172/.288/.258 line over 43 games and 177 plate appearances before he called it quits and underwent an operation to repair the damage that ended his 2011 season on May 21st.
Though the Nationals at least expressed interest in free agent first baseman Prince Fielder this winter while maintaining they were perfectly happy to stick with what they had and though he wasn't 100% at the start of Spring Training as expected, and worked his way back fairly slowly from the shoulder injury and a foot injury that arose, the .271/.343/.510 line LaRoche put up in 2012 rewarded Washington's patience and the 32-year-old first baseman hit a career-high 33 HRs and matched his previous best with 100 RBIs in 154 games and 647 plate appearances over which he was worth another career-high +3.8 fWAR.
The deal LaRoche signed with the Nationals in January of 2011 had a mutual option included that would pay the first baseman $10M dollars in 2013 or require a $1M dollar buyout.
Toward the end of the year, both LaRoche and the Nationals' GM told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that there was mutual interest in having the left-handed hitting and throwing first baseman return to the nation's capital next season with LaRoche explaining that he wanted, "'... to be a part of this, not just this year, but in the future, too,'" while the general manager said, "'We would love to have him back. We are certainly going to talk about that at the prudent time,'" with the prudent time, as Rizzo explained it, being, "'.... directly after the season.'"
On Saturday, not too long after the 2012 campaign ended on Friday night, there were already reports from the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, the Washington Times' Amanda Comak and others reporting that there had already been some communication about bringing LaRoche back to D.C. with the Washington Post's report noting that the, "Nationals and their first baseman opened initial contract discussions roughly two weeks ago."
"He’s a guy we really like,'" the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore quotes Rizzo explaining in the article, "'He fits in great in the lineup and in the club. We’ve been talking, and we’re going to continue to talk.'" Were LaRoche to decline the option and look for a multi-year deal on the free agent market, the Nationals, who have publicly stated a desire to bring him back, would have the exclusive right to negotiate with him for five days after the World Series ends.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, who let Adam Dunn walk and received two 1st Round picks in return which were used to draft RHP Alex Meyer and OF Brian Goodwin in June of 2011, the changes in the new CBA say they would have to make a qualifying offer which would be based on the average salary of the Top 125 deals and is believed to somewhere in the $12.5-$13.5M dollar range, in order to receive compensation in the form of a supplementary round pick should the player offered the deal decline and go on the free agent market. The two sides can, of course, reach a deal between now and the end of the World Series or the five-day window that follows it.
Asked last week for his thoughts on the season Adam LaRoche had in 2012, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson praised the first baseman. "Adam has been-- we didn't have him last year," Johnson said, "and he's been a mainstay from day one this year. I think I helped jump start him this season because I told him toward the end of Spring Training, I said, 'Adam, with you and [Mark] DeRosa, I'll probably do a platoon over there. I know your foot is not 100% and I'm worried about your shoulder and DeRosa has a bad wrist, so maybe I get 100% over there.'"
"And he looked at me like I was crazy," Johnson recounted.
"From day one he's been basically carrying the ballclub," the 69-year-old manager continued, "You know, he's doing nothing [now] that he hasn't done all year. He's been getting hits for us, and I figure for him to keep doing it." If LaRoche is going to keep doing it in a Nationals uniform in 2013 the two sides have to work something out. LaRoche finished the five-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals 3 for 17 with two home runs and four walks over the course of the NLDS. The Nationals have potential replacements at first in Tyler Moore and Michael Morse should they decide to part ways with LaRoche, but the initial reports are saying that both sides would like to find a way to bring him back to Washington, D.C.