As soon as the reports about the Washington Nationals signing Adam LaRoche came out this afternoon, the rumors about Michael Morse potentially getting dealt this winter started up again. Will the Nationals deal the right-handed slugger for prospects or the relief help they think they need?
The Washington Nationals weren't budging. 33-year-old free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche confirmed as much in a conversation with the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore in early December. "'Talking to Rizz,'" the nine-year-veteran infielder told the WaPost reporter, "'he’s a pretty straight shooter, they’re pretty adamant on not flexing past two years.'" As the Nats explained, they had options. Michael Morse was under contract. Tyler Moore was capable of playing first. The 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, Matt Skole, projected as a future 1B/corner infielder.
LaRoche was looking for a three-year deal after finishing up his 2-year/$16M contract and turning down his end of a mutual option for $10M in 2013 and a 1-year/$13.3M dollar qualifying offer that guaranteed Washington would receive a compensatory pick if the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-winning, plus-defender left the nation's capital. The Nationals thought anything more than a two-year deal would potentially cause a logjam in the future. The Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners were rumored to have interest in the left-handed hitting slugger.
Early this afternoon, the Washington Post's Mr. Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) reported on Twitter that the Nationals and LaRoche had agreed on a two-year deal which the Washington Times' Amanda Comak (@AComak) has since tweeted will pay the first baseman $10M in 2013 and $12M in 2014 with an option for 2015 at $15M or a $2M dollar buyout. The Nats acquired Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins earlier this winter, giving them an outfield that will have Span in center with Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper in right and left. That left Michael Morse without a position unless LaRoche signed elsewhere. As soon as LaRoche signed today, the speculation about Morse getting traded picked up again as it had during the Winter Meetings:
Nationals looking for LH relief help and/or prospects to help replenish farm system in a Michael Morse swap according to #Nats source— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) January 8, 2013
Source: #Nationals speaking to 5-6 teams about Morse. Earning $7M this season, then eligible for free agency.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 8, 2013
The Nationals have thus far been unable to find the left-handed reliever they are believed to be after this winter, and they're also said to be after organizational depth after having traded away some of their top pitching prospects in the last few years in the deals that brought Span and Gio Gonzalez to D.C. Nats' manager Davey Johnson told reporters earlier this winter that he didn't see both LaRoche and Morse remaining on the roster together since they were both established everyday players. LaRoche told the Washington Times' Amanda Comak this afternoon, after the deal was announced, that he and everyone else in the clubhouse would prefer to find a way, "... to keep him and have that bat in the lineup." Morse, for his part, told his Twitter followers (@DC_Beast38) that he would be going "silent" for a while as the situation played out.
• Here's what LaRoche said about returning to D.C. in interviews with the Washington Times and Washington Post this afternoon:
For a month, LaRoche thought he was signing elsewhere. "The whole time, I was kind of fighting for this to work out. I’m glad it did."— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) January 8, 2013
More LaRoche: "I was prepared to leave if I had to but I was really trying to do everything I could to get back there."— Amanda Comak (@acomak) January 8, 2013