When D.C. GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore on the way out of the GM Meetings in Indian Wells, California last week, the Washington Nationals' general manager talked of waiting for one of several metaphorical dominoes to fall and get things started this winter. Should Adam LaRoche, (who hadn't turned down the Nats' qualifying offer at that point but has since), sign on to return to the nation's capital for a third season and possibly more, the Nationals might turn to the pitching market with the infield set for 2013 and the outfield essentially settled with a mix of Michael Morse, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Roger Bernadina.
The rumors this week had the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox expressing interest in the 33-year-old 2012 Nats' first baseman coming off LaRoche's .271/.343/.510, 35 double, 33 HR, +3.8 fWAR 2012 campaign. A "baseball source" told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that the Nats and LaRoche's representatives hadn't, "... talked in a few days, but indicated that LaRoche would love to return to the Nationals." An unnamed Boston Red Sox' "official" who spoke to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal this week told the reporter that the Sox, "Like him. Don’t love him."
Mr. Rosenthal's colleague, FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi reported on the Sox and Rangers' interest in LaRoche last week, writing that Texas' interest was "yet another sign" that the team was preparing for the possibility of losing free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton. LaRoche, Mr. Morosi noted, could provide the Rangers with a left-handed presence in the lineup and his, "... .853 OPS this season was second only to Hamilton (.930) among current free agents." The Nats' GM told the Washington Times' Amanda Comak that he thought it might be a good thing for LaRoche to see what interest there was out there. "'I think it'll show him and I what his value is in the market,'" Rizzo told the Times' reporter and give the two sides a good idea of where to start negotiations.
Should LaRoche sign elsewhere, the expectation is that the Nationals would move Michael Morse's middle-of-the-order bat to first base, opening up a spot in the Nats' outfielder that could potentially be filled via free agency or trade with the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore mentioning free agents Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton and the D-Backs' Justin Upton as potential targets. Washington's interest in Bourn and Upton has been well documented as they've been tied to Bourn and the elder Upton brother in rumors at the last few trade deadlines, and Rizzo was Arizona's scouting director when they made Justin Upton the no.1 overall pick in the 2005 Draft.
The Nats' GM, however, wondered aloud when talking to reporters in California what it would take to pry Upton away from the Diamondbacks, if the price would be prohibitive and create holes in the organization and whether or not the, "... holes create more problems than the acquisition?" as he asked rhetorically in the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore's article.
The Nationals have been open about pursuing a fifth starter this winter, with Rizzo stating that they're not necessarily looking for a back-end of the rotation arm, but instead a fifth starter, or the best pitcher they can find. If the Nationals are to acquire a pitcher via trade, the GM pointed to their pitching and infield depth as possible strengths to deal from this winter while acknowledging that the depth in the Nats' system in terms of pitching is at Double-A and lower at this point.
Will the Nats deal from their pitching or infield depth or opt to turn to the free agent market to fill their rotation needs. Will Adam LaRoche sign and free them up to pursue pitching or outfield help? As of the end of the GM Meetings, however, the Nats' general manager was waiting for the first domino to fall...