Adam LaRoche likely moving on to make room for Ryan Zimmerman at first base

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Sep 23, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals first baseman

Adam LaRoche

(25) reacts after hitting a three run home run in the fifth inning against the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals fell well short of their goals this postseason, falling to the San Francisco Giants in four games in the NLDS. With the 2014 season in the rearview mirror, the Nationals turn their attention to next year, when expectations will be just as high and a deep run in the postseason will be expected.

Fortunately for the Nationals, the core of this season’s division champion, 96-win team will remain intact next season. But, although the team’s dominant starting rotation and the bulk of the lineup will return, there’s one key player that likely won’t be back with the Nationals in 2015 — Adam LaRoche.

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While LaRoche and the Nationals have a mutual option for the 2015 season, it’s unlikely that the option will vest, given the complexities of the Nationals’ infield that stem from Ryan Zimmerman‘s shoulder injury.

With Zimmerman’s arthritic right shoulder, his days at third base are likely over. And, unless the Nationals get rid of Denard Span (extremely unlikely), a move to first base is the next logical step for Zimmerman. As unfair at it might seem, that likely makes LaRoche the odd man out. And if he does leave, the Nationals will miss him greatly.

“My initial thought is Zim will probably have to move to first,” LaRoche told the Washington Post. “…So it just may be a situation where there’s no room. And I hope that that’s not the case. I’ve been here four years now, and there’s nothing I’d like more than to finish out my career in D.C. It’ll just come down to whether it makes sense personnel-wise, and I’m glad that’s not my decision.”

The Nationals originally signed LaRoche to replace Adam Dunn at first base prior to the 2011 season. After missing most of his first year on the disabled list, LaRoche quickly became one of the team’s best players.

From 2012 to 2014, LaRoche belted 79 home runs and drove in 254 runs. LaRoche has not only been a powerful presence in the lineup, but he has also played elite defense at first base throughout his time in Washington. From making incredible scoops at first to diving for balls that would’ve been sure doubles, LaRoche played Gold Clove-caliber defense every time he was on the field. It’s not easy being a first baseman for an infield that has Zimmerman and Ian Desmond on the left side. For LaRoche, it looked more than easy.

LaRoche’s best season with the Nationals came in 2012, when he hit .271 with 33 home runs and 100 RBIs. LaRoche was not only a key part of the team’s 2012 NL East championship, but he also finished sixth in MVP voting and won the NL Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards at first base.

LaRoche had another great year at the plate in 2014, batting .259 with 26 home runs and 92 RBIs.

Needless to say, LaRoche has been a key part of the organization for the last four years. He saw the Nationals grow from being the worst team in baseball to becoming NL East champions, and he played a major role in that transformation.

Unfortunately for the Nationals, unless Zimmerman somehow finds a way to play third base again, there’s just no place to put LaRoche. And although Zimmerman is a stronger asset at the plate, LaRoche’s absence will be felt on the infield and in the clubhouse. He’s been arguably the teams MVP the last three years and if he does move on to another club, it will undoubtedly be a huge loss for the Nationals.

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