The Washington Nationals are reportedly unwilling to go beyond a 2-year/$25M dollar deal for free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche. Will the Nats' Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-winning infielder return to D.C.?
"All along, we were satisfied and happy with the position of first base with what we've got," Washington Nationals' general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters. "I had parameters set in my mind of what my threshold was for the player," the general manager said, though he declined to offer any specifics as to what those parameters were, "And once it exceeded that threshold then we felt that if the market didn't come back to us that we were out of it." The Nationals and their GM drew a line and stuck to it and when the offers Prince Fielder was receiving went beyond what they were willing to pay they bowed out, though Rizzo would later admit that the Nats were in the mix for the free agent first baseman until "very close" to the time Fielder signed a 9-year/$214M dollar deal with the Detroit Tigers.
The Nationals find themselves in a similar though significantly less high stakes situation with a free agent first baseman of interest to Washington again this winter. The Nats' GM and manager have repeatedly explained that they're comfortable going with what they have in Michael Morse and Tyler Moore if the market for their top target exceeds their set parameters. The Nationals, as Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell wrote this morning, are unwilling to go beyond the original 2-year/$25M dollar offer they've made to Adam LaRoche, the first baseman they had under contract while they flirted with the idea of signing Fielder last year. LaRoche went out and put together a .271/.343/.510, 35 double, 33 HR, +3.8 fWAR campaign in 2012, and now he's looking for a multi-year deal on the market this winter.
The Nationals, Mr. Boswell writes, "... haven’t upped their two-year $25 million offer to LaRoche to perhaps the three-year, $39 million level that Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino received." Will the Texas Rangers offer LaRoche the three years he wants now that they've lost Josh Hamilton and his power to the LA Angels? Will the Nationals budge from their 2-year offer? The WaPost writer thinks they should, suggesting that, "... they might want to offer that third year like, maybe, tomorrow, and close the deal by dinner, because stunned depleted Texas now needs a free agent lefty power bat."
After he talked to Nationals' manager Davey Johnson a few weeks back, however, the Washington Post's Mr. Boswell quoted the 69-year-old skipper in a chat acknowledging the Nats GM's steadfast refusal to budge from the Nats' original offer. "'Mike sticks to his guns,'" Johnson said, according to the WaPost reporter, "'And he always has (other) plans and options in mind...We need to draw a line and know when we're done with Adam (one way or the other.)'" A recent report from Mr. Boswell's colleague at the Post Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) suggested that the deadline for the resolution of the situation is Christmas.
The Nationals are interested in LaRoche, Davey Johnson has openly campaigned for his return, but if he leaves Washington receives a compensatory draft pick and they still have Michael Morse to play first in the second year of a 2-year extension that will pay the 30-year-old power hitter $6.75M before he too hits free agency next winter. Tyler Moore, 25, is coming off back-to-back 31 HR seasons in the Nats' system in 2010-11 and an impressive rookie campaign in D.C. in 2012. Johnson said earlier this winter one of the biggest problems he might have this year is finding playing time for the likes of Moore and Steve Lombardozzi.
Just like they were last winter, the Nationals are happy with the options they have should the first baseman they are after choose to sign elsewhere. If Adam LaRoche re-signs with Washington they'll have to decide what to do with Morse. The chatter about the slugger being traded has died down considerably since the Winter Meetings. LaRoche's options appear limited, but that could change as more and more free agent "dominoes" fall this winter. Christmas is just eleven days away...
Hopefully this year the drama doesn't drag on as long as it did last winter when Prince Fielder waited until January 25th to sign.