(Alex Brandon/AP)

The return of Adam LaRoche will be one of the most pressing questions for the Nationals this offseason. LaRoche and the Nationals have a one-year, mutual option for 2013 worth $10 million. The team would surely exercise its end, but after his season LaRoche will have a chance to test the market for a multi-year deal. LaRoche wants to stay, but not at the expense of passing up a longer contract.

Manager Davey Johnson today gave his preference. He plans to apply pressure to both sides to bring LaRoche back to the Nationals next year.

“We need him back more than we need me back,” Johnson said.

Johnson has yet to begin his campaign with LaRoche. “But I got time,” Johnson said. “I’ll promise him he won’t have to give me shots next year in golf. That’ll hook him in. He doesn’t have to let me play the up tees.”

LaRoche slugged his 30th home run Saturday and has notched 94 RBIs so far, while playing excellent defense. LaRoche has never won a Gold Glove, but he has to be considered a leading contender this season.

“The defense is what I really love,” Johnson said. “His defensive prowess gives us one of the best defenses in the league. By far.”