Oh Adam LaRoche, what are the Washington Nationals ever going to do with you?
Taking a page out of Josh Hamilton‘s book on not how to live up to MLB contracts, the first baseman has been an unequivocal disappointment in 2013. Despite having smashed 18 home runs in what will more than likely be yet another 20-plus homer season, the 33-year-old holds a poor .740 OPS made up of a .236/.324/.417 line that has seen him regress in essentially every offensive category other than his ability to draw walks.
And his usually solid defense at first? It’s currently sitting at a four-year low 0.9 fielding runs below average, which is to say that at just 0.4 fWAR, he’s not really contributing much either with the glove or the bat.
No wonder why teams were so hesitant to sign him to a multi-year contract in the offseason.
The $10 million that the Nats have paid him for 2013 is sunk cost at this point, of course, but because they did decide to pull the trigger on that multi-year deal, they’ve still got at least $14 million ($12 million plus a $2 million buyout for 2015) to worry about. Needless to say, the chances of him performing to a point where he’ll make good on the entirety on the contract are not good.
Thus, so are the chances for Washington to do something about it.
Unfortunately, that’s not particularly good news for this team as they’ll be looking to reload for next season with the same core group, and the first step of that would reasonably involve shipping out LaRoche, who doesn’t have a long-term future with the team … or a short-term one if he hits like this again, really,
This is nothing new, of course. Even as recently as the trade deadline, there’d be some rumblings that the Nationals were listening in for offers on LaRoche, potentially opting to go with Ryan Zimmerman shifting to first, Anthony Rendon moving back to third, and a returning Danny Espinosa manning second base.
It would still be a decent plan to pursue for the offseason, if not for some serious wrenches being thrown into the mix. Rendon has been slumping along with a .565 OPS since the All-Star break after his hot start (though he does have a .779 OPS in August), Espinosa hasn’t been much better (.547 OPS) … at triple-A.
Then, of course, there’s the matter of LaRoche’s contract and how they would reasonably unburden themselves from it. With his value at an all-time low, it’s unlikely for the Nats to get anything substantial back in a trade, though you could make the argument that it would benefit them even if it’s just a straight salary dump for one year.
So, which teams would make for some potential dance partners?
I suppose if you were going by this season as an example, then the New York Yankees come to mind. They’ve gone through a plethora of veteran castoffs at first base as is, and with Mark Teixeira‘s hands being far from a certain thing, one year of LaRoche might just be the backup they’re looking for next season.
If you already knew they weren’t going to take on the salary, you might even say the Minnesota Twins — who are poised to lose Justin Morneau to free agency (because of the money) — could be in the mix. Another possibility might be the Texas Rangers, who really need all the power they can get in their lineup both this and next season, especially after watching Alex Rios experience a power outage (.705 OPS) upon arrival.
Regardless of who it might be, LaRoche is arguably the first puzzle the team has to solve in the offseason — it just also happens to be the most difficult one, that’s all.