Based on multiple reports, Josh Hamilton agreed to a mammoth five-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Thursday afternoon, sending ripples through the baseball world. Around this time of the year, the market is set by the top free agents, such as Hamilton and Zack Greinke, and then the rest of the players follow suit. And in the Nationals’ case, news of the Angels luring Hamilton could mean that the Texas Rangers, who sought to bring back Hamilton, could turn to free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche instead.
A baseball official indicated the Rangers have not pushed hard for LaRoche and seem likely to look at other options first after Hamilton’s departure.
But, on some levels, the Rangers and LaRoche could make sense. The Nationals have held firm on their two-year offer to LaRoche, 32, who is seeking the security of a three-year deal. The Nationals don’t even want to offer an option third year, as they will have a logjam of infielders in a few years with the rise of developing prospects and will have substantial financial commitments in the future to homegrown players such as Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond.
The Rangers were one of the handful of teams interested in LaRoche, who hit 33 home runs, drove in 100 runs and earned a Gold Glove last season. But they were reportedly heavily courting Hamilton, wanting to keep his power bat in the lineup. But now that they have lost out on Greinke (to the Dodgers) and Hamilton (to the Angels), it makes sense that they could extend a three-year deal to LaRoche, a potentially luring offer from a contending team. And the Rangers, who have shown a willingness to spend money, could also be motivated to pursue LaRoche harder, given their lack of success in the free agent market so far.
The Seattle Mariners, another team interested in LaRoche and Hamilton, could also push harder on LaRoche. If anything, a three-year offer from another team could serve as leverage for LaRoche on the Nationals.
For now, LaRoche, who has expressed his desire to return to Washington, is still a legitimate option for the Nationals. According to Manager Davey Johnson, they feel they have recent “positive signs” in re-signing LaRoche before Christmas. But like the Angels swooping in late on Hamilton, much could still happen.
– Adam Kilgore contributed to this report.