The Nationals and Adam LaRoche continue their amicable negotiations with little progress to report, the Nationals holding unwaveringly firm on their two-year offer to the free agent first baseman.
Though nothing has advanced between the two sides, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo and LaRoche’s agent, Mike Milchin of the SFX agency, continue talking. Rizzo reached out to Milchin on Monday night and the two have already met face-to-face during the winter meeting at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville.
“I still feel optimistic that we can get him signed,” Rizzo said during his Tuesday session with reporters. “He wants to be here and we want him here. I’m optimistic.”
Determining who will play first base is one of the few remaining unresolved offseason matters for the Nationals. The Nationals have offered LaRoche, 33, a two-year deal, and the sought-after first baseman wants the security of a three year agreement, a luxury the free agent has earned himself after a 33-home run, 100-RBI, Gold Glove season.
Given the standstill, one possibility for helping bridge the difference is that the Nationals could offer an option for the third year. But Rizzo shot down that idea on Tuesday. The Nationals will have a clogged infield once top prospect Anthony Rendon arrives, and will have significant future financial commitments for Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg and other homegrown players in the future.
“Our deal is where it’s at,” Rizzo said. “I think we’re going to stay there. We’ve made that clear to him that a two-year deal for Adam LaRoche works for us and we’ve been pretty clear about that.”
The Nationals have some leverage with LaRoche, who has spoken several times in the past of his family’s fondness with Washington, his friendship with his teammates and his desire to be on a winning team. The latter could play perhaps the largest role, given the fact that LaRoche could likely easily command a lucrative three-year deal with an opponent with a losing record in desperate need of a power-hitting first baseman.
Should the Nationals sign LaRoche, there will be a logjam at first base and Michael Morse is a likely trade chip. Teams have called the Nationals about Morse, whose name continues buzzing around the winter meetings. The Nationals don’t see a situation in which they keep both LaRoche and Morse.
“Once you have everyday players that have established their credentials in the major leagues are pretty good, it’s hard to start sharing roles,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “But that’s part of the game of baseball. We might have to make a move if we get too heavy that way.”
So, for now, the Nationals continue to explore their options, hoping LaRoche returns.
“I’m not going to put a time frame on it,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got our offers on the table and we’re not going to pressure Adam into doing anything sooner than he’s ready to do it.”