Will Washington Nationals Deal a First Baseman?

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As the Washington Nationals prepare for their early-morning season finale against the Milwaukee Brewers, it’s time again to heat up the trade talk. Today, we focus on Washington’s organizational depth at first base.

Will Washington dip into that depth to deal for pitching? Thus far, Adam LaRoche has had a solid season offensively, batting .251/.340/.436 with 12 HRs and 37 RBIs, and playing stellar defense as always. His left-handed bat has provided extra balance in Washington’s everyday lineup, though he returned to his old ways of starting slow in 2013, batting .136 in April, followed by .330 in May.

LaRoche is cost controlled for the next few years, as he makes $10 million this season and $12 million in 2014, with a $15 million option mutual option and a $2 million buyout. He’s an established first baseman who can hit in any lineup and can always be penciled in for about .270/.345/.450 with 25-30 HRs and 85-100 RBIs.

The question about LaRoche is his age (33) and whether or not he will hold up offensively, as his stance and swing depend mostly on his arms. If his arms slow down, presumably with age, his stats will fall quickly. Could LaRoche be dealt? Perhaps, but I think Mike Rizzo sees his bat and defense as too valuable to deal, unless he is acquiring a big-name player.

I would think it is more likely a guy like Tyler Moore or Chris Marrero is dealt. Moore is a young power hitter who came off the bench in 2012 and hit 10 HRs and batted a respectable .263, and came up big in the playoffs. His versatility could also be another selling point, as he’s played the outfield much more at the major league level than he has at first base. If a team wants a young right-handed power hitter with a great offensive strategy, Moore is probably their guy.

Marrero is a bit more interesting than Moore. Marrero profiles as more of a batting average over power first baseman, as the most home runs he has ever hit in the minors is 17, compared to consecutive 31 home run seasons from Moore. Marrero’s .286 minor league average also trumps Moore’s career .266 average in the minors. Marrero’s power may come, but as an all-around hitter, he’ll probably have a more fruitful career than Moore.

Could any of these three names be dealt? Yes, and no. With a guys like Taylor Jordan and Danny Rosenbaum in the minors, Washington could live up to strategy and “promote from within,” as they always have. Of course, if Dan Haren makes a triumphant return, this could all be a moot point. Let’s hope that’s the case.

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