|LaRoche will remain in Washington, D.C. (US Presswire)|
The Washington Nationals and free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche have agreed on a new contract, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The deal is for two years, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Terms of the deal are $24 million over two years, with a mutual option for 2015 that includes a $2 million buyout, should the Nats not pick up the option, according to Amanda Comak of the Washington Times.
This ends an extended dance between LaRoche and the Nationals in which LaRoche was said to be asking for three years and the Nats were said to be refusing to give more than two years. On that front, it would appear general manager Mike Rizzo has achieved victory in both keeping LaRoche and not going further than two years.
LaRoche, 33, hit .271/.343/.510 with 33 homers, 100 RBI and 76 runs last season, finishing sixth in NL MVP voting and winning his first Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards. The Nationals ended up with their first NL East title and had the best record in the majors.
This move is significant for a few other reasons, too.
First, LaRoche had been connected with the Red Sox in rumors, as they had yet to finalize their reported three-year deal with Mike Napoli. With LaRoche giving in and signing a two-year deal with the Nationals, the odds are he wasn't getting three years from Boston. Going a step further, that likely means the Red Sox don't have incentive to offer three years and that the Napoli deal will eventually be finalized.
Also, Mike Morse is now without a position and is likely to be traded. The Nationals have a full outfield with Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth. They have a first baseman in LaRoche. They have a backup both at first and in the outfield in Tyler Moore (also, Roger Bernadina is fine as a backup outfielder). So Morse is dead weight, essentially. And he's only one year removed from hitting .303/.360/.550 with 31 homers and 95 RBI. The Nats could use another bullpen arm, and Morse is a free agent after 2013, so expect to see him dealt for a major-league reliever in the coming weeks.
In the end, this signing surely satisfies all parties involved in Washington aside from Morse. In particular, manager Davey Johnson has constantly been harping on the need to re-up with LaRoche all offseason. He said the following at the winter meetings in early December:
"Adam LaRoche is going to come back. I mean, if I have to go to Kansas and take him and all his cattle to Florida, I will. I told him -- you know what, he came to my golf tournament. I had a golf tournament to raise some money for Lighthouse For the Blind. It was a very successful tournament. But the primary concern -- there was two people there that I really wanted to see. One was Brooks Robinson, and he was outstanding, and he showed up. And the other guy was -- well, Bryce Harper was there too. But the main guy was Adam LaRoche. I tried to give him the best team, had him and Rizzo around each other a lot, and I told him bring a pen from Kansas. I think Harolyn Cardozo, one of our assistants to the GM, she doesn't even eat meat, and she bought half a cow. We're trying to make it easier for him to come back."
Five weeks later, the Nationals have re-signed LaRoche. So Davey can rest easy.