It has been two months since Adam LaRoche opted out of his option year with the Washington Nationals and almost as long since the Nationals had been saying that they want LaRoche back, so what is the hold up?
Well, they say baseball is a business and this is no exception. The biggest hold up is that LaRoche didn’t opt out simply to get one extra year. He wants the security that comes with a three-year contract and since he is coming off of the best season of his career at age 33, it may be his last chance at a big contract. However, the Nationals aren’t sure how LaRoche will play in 2013, nevermind 2014 and 2015. The second thing is that the Nationals have a couple of other pieces of this puzzle. The first is Michael Morse. Morse would be out of a starting job if the Nationals re-sign LaRoche and while he is a good guy to have on the bench, he may have more value in a trade to another team. The second is Anthony Rendon, the organization’s top prospect. Rendon is a third baseman naturally, and the Nationals already have one in Ryan Zimmerman. The general idea is that when Rendon is ready, Zimmerman would move to first base in a way to give the Nationals the best possible infield. Rendon may not be ready for 2013, but he should probably be ready for 2014 and would definitely be ready by 2015 which would be the last year of a theoretical three-year LaRoche contract. The Nationals know that by the end of the first year of LaRoche’s contract, he may no longer be a starter. By the third year, he would be 36 and have Rendon nipping at his heels if not already surpassing him.
Now, this is obviously all theoretical but now that the Boston Red Sox have emerged as a suitor with the Mike Napoli contract situation up in the air, and the Texas Rangers have a Josh Hamilton-Mike Napoli sized hole in their lineup where they are looking for a left-handed bat who can play first base. In other words, LaRoche has options and those teams – who are close to contention with limited in house options- may be more willing to give LaRoche the longer contract he is looking for.
There are some who don’t even think that LaRoche is a better option than Mike Morse so even if the Nationals do come to an agreement, they may just have two more suitors for Morse in a trade. Either way, the Nationals are in the driver’s seat and should stick to their guns on the length of the contract they are offering him.