Adam LaRoche has been one of the most pleasant surprises for the Nationals this season. He has a mutual option with the team for next season (Photo: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE)

Previewing The Nationals Free Agent Decisions

The Washington Nationals are five games away from potentially clinching the National League East title and have already assured themselves of their first postseason berth since moving South.

But, let’s skip all of that and take a look at free agency decisions the Nationals will have to make. At my count, there are five four potential Nationals heading to free agency (counting players with options but not arbitration eligible or automatic renewals). Those players are Edwin Jackson, Adam LaRoche, Chien-Ming Wang, Chad Tracy and Sean Burnett.

Edwin Jackson.

2012 Salary: $11 million, 28 years old

When the Nationals signed Jackson for one year, it was a move that was lauded by most baseball analysts because they bought low on a player that was surely positioning himself for a future multi-year deal. He is almost surely going to hit the open market, and the Nationals will probably try and re-sign him to go along with their star-studded rotation that will include Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez. Jackson would be a pretty expensive #4 starter to be investing long term in, but if the Nationals can sign him at a decent price, that would help them have a strong rotation from top to bottom along with (probably) Ross Detwiler. His season may have not raised his value like he would have liked but he still has the postseason and should still make some significant money this offseason.

Adam LaRoche

2012 Salary: $8 million, 32 years old

LaRoche might be the biggest surprise of all surprises the Nationals have had this season. After an injury plagued 2011 season, LaRoche came back with a bang in 2012. But this wasn’t a 2010 bang. This was a bang that hasn’t been heard from LaRoche since 2006 when he was an up-and-coming 26 year old in his prime. Now, the Nationals and LaRoche have a mutual option for 2013 that will see him get paid $10 million for a final year or be bought out for $1 million. I think that the most likely scenario is LaRoche staying and the Nationals and him agreeing on an extension for a second or maybe even third year. LaRoche will want to cash in on his great season and the Nationals won’t want to have to try and replace him.

Chien-Ming Wang

2012 Salary: $4 million, 32 years old

Wang is a great story. After being out of baseball for so long, he wasn’t supposed to be successful and make it back to the Majors. He has, and while he may still have some life in him at the Major League level, I don’t see him and the Nationals extending their time together unless there is a bonus-laden contract. Wang pitched well in his last start but will be hard pressed to make the playoff roster and that might have been his last big hurrah in a Nationals uniform.

Sean Burnett

2012 Salary: $2.5 million, 30 years old

Burnett has been very good in the Nationals bullpen and he has an option for $3.5 million with a 250k buyout. I think the two sides will extend the option and I would be very surprised if Burnett does not stay with the Nationals. However, as good as Burnett was, he may want to get some security.

Chad Tracy

2012 Salary: $750,000, 32 years old

Tracy has been a fan favourite and a key guy off the bench for the Nationals this season. The captain of the ‘Goon Squad’, what F.P Santangelo called the Nationals bench players and pinch hitters, Tracy is the kind of guy that will have demand on the open market, but he’s the kind of guy that needs a niche and it appears he has found that as the first left-handed bat off the bench for a contending team which the Nationals now are.


As a couple of the comments point out, Tracy was already signed to an extension. That’s what I get for going off of an outdated contract list.


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Tags: Adam LaRoche Chad Tracy Chien-Ming Wang Edwin Jackson Sean Burnett Washington Nationals

  • Aaron Somers

    Tracy was actually already signed to an extension (back on August 24) for next season, so we know he’ll be back.

  • Todd Boss

    I tend to disagree with a couple of your guesses. Here’s why:

    - Jackson: do you want to have your #5 starter be your highest paid pitcher? Make no mistake, Jackson has been basically the 5th best of 5 starters this year, outpitched by Detwiler all season. I think some other team offers him a 4 year deal at $12-13M/per and we won’t be inclined to match it. Maybe I’m wrong and there’s no clubhouse issues related to pay versus performance. But I certainly know that if the guy in the cube next to me isn’t as good as I am but is paid double what I make, then i’m a disgruntled worker.- LaRoche absolutely has to test the FA market; he’s the #1 first basemen option available and at his age, given his career year in 2012, he’s in the best possible position to get the longest and most guaranteed money. This is his LAST chance frankly at a big, life-altering contract and he’d be crazy not to go for it. Are the Nats going to want to extend him on 2-3 years? Even that i’m not so sure about; if you sign LaRoche for 2-3 years, you are forced to keep Morse in the OF at least for 2013, which retards the growth of Moore (who projects to a 30-homer season if you made him a starter). – There’s zero chance the team re-signs Wang. No options so we can’t stash him in the minors, he’s really not pitched well for the team this year, injury prone and he’s not really the Rizzo style pitcher. He doesn’t feature out of the bullpen well. – Burnett; i do think he signs his mutual option (it gives him a good pay raise) but i could also see him signing a 3 year $10M deal or something like that.
    my 2 cents.

    • Aaron Somers

      I’d have to agree that both Jackson and LaRoche will test the open market and both could be in line for multi-year deals. And there’s no chance Wang returns.

    • Aaron Somers

      Burnett I believe wants to stay in DC. I’d expect the team and his agent to work out more than a one year deal.

    • Jared Book

      I think it’s very, very slim that E-Jax stays. He would have to take a pay cut to stay and another team will offer him a lot more. I don’t think I made that as clear as I wanted.

      Agree with Wang and Burnett.

      LaRoche probably will end up testing the market but I think it depends on how the organization feels about Morse’s health. There’s a shot they bring him back.

      As for Tracy, oops. Was looking at a Cot’s spreadsheet (obviously outdated). I was able to remove Lidge and Ankiel.