Now that the Nationals added their big pitcher and their center fielder, the focus will turn to first base where Washington has several options on what to do. The team had both Mike Morse and Adam LaRoche last season and used Morse in the outfield and LaRoche at first base. LaRoche put together his best season in years while Morse struggled with injuries.
Just looking at the numbers, Morse seems to be the better choice. He is younger, and even with injuries last year had similar on base numbers compared to LaRoche. However, there are arguments for LaRoche and I will get into them.
First, because the two players are quite similar, the Nationals might be better off trading Morse. In that way, they can get something for him (maybe relievers? prospects?) and then they will be able to sign LaRoche. That makes the Nationals better, too.
However, the fact is, there is no guarantee that LaRoche will be able to put up numbers he did last season. LaRoche is 32. His most similar player is Tony Clark. As it turns out, Clark’s age-33 season was one of the best of his career. He hit 30 home runs and hit .304/.366/.636. The problem wasn’t so much that season, but that it was his last good season. LaRoche will not accept a one-year contract, which means the Nationals will need to put out more years and a bigger commitment. So while you may want LaRoche over Morse in 2013, do you want a 34-year old LaRoche over a 32-year old Morse in 2014? Two years don’t make a difference but it is something to consider.
There are other factors at stake, like a little thing I like to call Morse’s 2011 season. He was even better than LaRoche in 2012. He hit .303/.360/.550 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI. If he is healthy that is what he could bring in 2013.
There are other issues that I alluded to earlier. By committing to LaRoche, you lock him in. He can only play first base or be a pinch hitter. Morse is not a great fielder in the outfield but at least can play there in a pinch.
What it comes down to, simply, is what you can get for Morse and how much LaRoche will want in that second (or even third) year. The two players are quite similar and can both go in either direction. There is no right answer now but there will be comparisons between the two no matter what is chosen. Personally, I think I’m leaning towards Morse/Moore in 2013 than LaRoche but could be swayed based on what Morse could bring back in a trade but know that this is a much harder decision than just looking at 2012 numbers. After 2011, this would have been a no-brainer for Morse. Things can change so quickly in baseball.
And the way things are going, things can change by the time this post is on the internet…