The Washington Nationals shrewdness paid off Tuesday as they were able to resign free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year, $24 million contract instead of the three years that he wanted. Once again, general manager Mike Rizzo was able to gauge the situation and do what he thought was best for the organization.
While it was rumored that LaRoche would not budge from his stance of getting three years, the Nationals brass held out long enough to get him to change his mind. After turning down a one year tender that would have paid him $13 million, LaRoche listened to offers from the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox. While both showed interest, neither wanted to part with a high draft pick, which would have been compensation for signing the NL 2012 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award winner at his position.
The signing of LaRoche climaxes an off season in which Washington management did everything it deemed necessary to improve a team that won its first NL East title in 2012 and led all of baseball with 98 wins. The Nationals were able to trade for a lead off hitting center fielder in Denard Span, whom they were able to get from the Minnesota Twins. They signed free agent starting pitcher Dan Haren from the Los Angeles Angels to replace Edwin Jackson and manager Davey Johnson decided to come back for one more year.
With LaRoche back in the fold and Span in center, Washington now thinks it has what will be its opening day lineup going into spring training. LaRoche is expected to return to the number four spot in the batting order where he will be asked to drive in Span, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. If LaRoche can put up similar numbers to his 33 home runs and 100 RBI from 2012, the Nationals should be pennant contenders again.
If reaction by Washington players to the shutdown of ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg after he threw 160 innings in his comeback from Tommy John surgery is any indication, it is a good thing the Nationals resigned LaRoche. It was reported that those within the locker room were disappointed that Strasburg was shut down when the team had a chance to win a championship. LaRoche is one of the most popular members of the team and it is likely there would have been some players upset if he had signed elsewhere.
As it stands, all is right in Natsville for now. The departure of LaRoche has been avoided and on the organization’s terms. LaRoche may not have gotten his third year, but knows that he is with an organization which has a chance to win the World Series in the next two years. Everyone can now focus on getting ready to make another playoff run in 2013.
Once again, Rizzo and the Nationals management got it done.