What options do the Washington Nationals have if Gold Glove first baseman Adam LaRoche does not accept their one year $13.3 million offer and signs elsewhere?
The Nationals made their offer last Friday and LaRoche has a week to decide whether he will take it? If he does and LaRoche then decides to leave, Washington will receive a compensatory draft pick from the team that signs him. If LaRoche does not sign the Nationals can still give him to a long term deal. It is unlikely that LaRoche will sign the one year offer as at age 32 he is looking for a long term deal.
If Washington were to lose LaRoche they would have to replace the man who was their MVP in 2012. Along with the Gold Glove and .995 fielding percentage, LaRoche batted .271 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI. This is the best season any Nationals first baseman ever had as he led the team in home runs and RBI.
If Washington wants to replace LaRoche with someone already on the 25 man roster there is outfielder Michael Morse. He took over at first in 2011 when LaRoche suffered a torn labrum and missed most of the season. In his first extended action as a starter Morse had his best season batting .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI. In 2012, Morse spent most of his time in left field.
If Morse were to return to first base the Nationals would not lose much at the plate. However, Morse is nowhere near the defensive first baseman that LaRoche is. Morse improved as the season went on in 2011, but does not have the range nor can handle the glove like LaRoche.
Washington could also use utility man Chad Tracy at first. 2012 was his first season with the Nationals. Tracy played first when LaRoche took a day off which was not often. Tracy is a good hitter, but like Morse is not the fielder that LaRoche is.
At the minor league level, there is Chris Marrero. He is one of the biggest reasons why Washington may be hesitant in signing LaRoche long term. Marrero was the team’s first pick in the 2006 draft taken 15th overall. It was hoped that the 24 year old would be in the big leagues by now. He was called up at the end of 2011 and played in 31 games.
Marrero was going to be given a chance to make the Washington roster in 2012, but a torn hamstring suffered over the winter would not allow him to compete. After beginning the season at Triple A Syracuse, Marrero was shut down in July.
If LaRoche does decide to sign with someone else the Nationals will look to Morse, Tracy or Marrero to replace him. The hope is that it will be Marrero.
Washington may not be able to keep LaRoche, but the team does have options if he leaves.