With the announcement that the Boston Red Sox were signing free agent C/1B Mike Napoli, one potential suitor for Adam LaRoche was eliminated from the field of potential destinations for the 33-year-old Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-winning infielder. The Sox, at least according to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, remain interested in outfielder Nick Swisher, but they are no longer in on LaRoche. Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) speculated on Twitter this morning that the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners likely remained interested, but the options appear to be dwindling for LaRoche if he wants to find a deal better than what the Nationals are offering him to come back to the nation's capital.
In an interview posted on CSNWashington.com this morning (h/t @ChaseHughes), LaRoche talked openly, as he has all winter, about wanting to return to Washington. The Nats made a trade to bring in the center fielder/leadoff man they wanted this winter, acquiring Denard Span in a deal with the Minnesota Twins, so Michael Morse, who played left with a healthy LaRoche at first in 2012, will likely move to first if LaRoche signs elsewhere, but the Nationals' interest in LaRoche has led to speculation Morse might get dealt, a reality LaRoche acknowledged in the interview with CSN Washington.
"It's kind of up in the air who's going to be at first," LaRoche said in the interview conducted at a charity golf tournament Nats' skipper Davey Johnson hosted in Florida this past weekend, "So it's between me and Mike. [Morse] is obviously a great friend of mine, so, however it works out it does, but I do know that I've got a little meeting set up here with [Nats' GM Mike] Rizzo, I don't know if he knows about it, but we're going to see if we can hash some things out."
WaPost reporter Adam Kilgore wrote about the meeting between Rizzo and LaRoche this weekend, reporting that the Nats' general manager had explained his position that the Nationals wanted the first baseman back on a 2-year deal because they have prospects coming up in the organization and big raises on the horizon for players like Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and others. "'Talking to Rizz, he’s a pretty straight shooter, they’re pretty adamant on not flexing past two years,'" LaRoche told the Washington Post, but the first baseman would prefer a three-year deal.
That's where the Nationals and LaRoche have been stalled for some time now, though they continue to discuss a deal. When Mike Rizzo was asked about the current status of discussions after acquiring Span, he told reporters on a teleconference that as things stood, one player was under contract with Washington right now. "Michael Morse is under contract with us," Rizzo said, "He's a guy that's a middle-of-the-lineup productive player for us and Adam LaRoche was our first baseman last year and we're still discussing it with him and in contract negotiations. So it gives us some options in dealing with our roster."
The chatter out of the Winter Meetings so far is mostly centered around potential deals for Michael Morse. Former Nats' GM and current ESPN and MLB Network Radio analyst Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenESPNXM) wrote on Twitter last night that the Tampa Bay Rays were showing interest in both Morse and Danny Espinosa with a pitcher believed to be the Nationals' target though it's unclear if the Rays are interested in both, one or the other w/ other prospects, or some other possibility.
ESPN's Jayson Stark (@JaysonST) wrote on Twitter this morning that, "A source familiar with talks between #Nationals & #Rays says a Morse/Espinosa deal to Tampa Bay is not very likely, despite the logical fit."
Though CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman writes this afternoon that the Nats have in fact talked to the Rays about right-hander James Shields, he adds that, "... the status of those talks is uncertain now." The Nationals, Mr. Heyman suggest, view Shields as a more reasonably priced alternative to free agent pitcher Zack Greinke as Denard Span was a better alternative to the likes of free agent outfielders B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn. As for the Nats' interest in Bourn, fwiw, MASN's Dan Kolko (@MASNKolko) wrote on Twitter this morning that the rumored interest on the Nationals' part may have been overstated:
For the record, high-ranking #Nats source says team wasn't heavily "in" on Michael Bourn pre-Span trade. Reports to the contrary overblown.— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) December 3, 2012
The only other chatter about the Nats at this point surrounds the interest in Sean Burnett, with several reports saying that at least eight teams, among them Washington, St. Louis, Milwaukee and the LA Angels, have shown interest in the free agent left-hander's services. Well there's the chatter about Burnett, Mike Pelfrey? and the fact that FOX Sports had interest in purchasing MASN as John Ourand wrote this morning... and the Nationals are bringing back the NatsFest.
More rumors to surely to follow...