“I think we both were getting tired of the process,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “Adam and I had a few private conversations with each other. I made it clear to Adam, ‘It’s time to get this thing done, make a decision.’ He agreed.”
LaRoche’s signing figures to push the Nationals’ 2013 opening-day payroll past $100 million, the highest it has been in franchise history. According to a person with knowledge of the deal, which LaRoche signed after passing a physical Tuesday, he will earn at least $24 million over two years. He will make $10 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014. The contract includes a mutual option for a third year worth $15 million. If the option is not picked up, LaRoche will receive a $2 million buyout.
“It’s good to have it done, it really is,” LaRoche said in a phone conversation. “At the end of the year, I was pretty confident I was coming back. There was a little stretch there it wasn’t looking good. Some other teams were coming on pretty strong. The whole time, I was kind of fighting for this to work out. I’m glad it did. This was my first choice, without question.”
Starting late in the regular season, LaRoche never wavered in his preference to return to Washington. But after the Nationals made an initial offer with “pretty tight parameters,” Rizzo said, and refused to budge, LaRoche thought for roughly a month he would sign elsewhere. Once Rizzo made some small concessions, LaRoche decided to re-sign.
“We got the dollars moved a little bit. Some of the other small things,” LaRoche said. “All in all, they held pretty tight. That’s part of what took a while. You got Rizz, myself – both pretty competitive guys going at it. We knew what the team could do. In no way do I consider this a bad deal. To be honest, we all make way more than we should, anyway. Either way, it’s a ton of money.”
He may not have gotten the three-year deal he hoped for, but LaRoche will stay with a team that suddenly has become a destination.
“It’s amazing how things have changed,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “People used to not be able to get out of here, and now they want to stay.”
LaRoche’s return answers the biggest remaining question of the Nationals’ winter. He will provide another left-handed slugger in the middle of the order and allow for balance in a potent lineup. Last season, LaRoche hit 33 home runs with a .271 batting average, .343 on-base percentage, .510 slugging percentage and 100 RBI. His slick fielding saved innumerable throws in the dirt. His bat and glove together earned a tie for sixth in the National League most valuable player voting.