Washington Nationals Free Agency: Getting Adam LaRoche Back is Key
The move, as first reported by the Washington AP, will leave the newly-acclimated NL East powerhouse Nationals with a lofty and difficult decision: keep LaRoche—paying him a multi-year deal—or move forward without him.
Without question, LaRoche's 2012 season—the best of his career—is worth of moving him into the elite group of first baseman in the league; his gold glove award also gives him the street-cred on the open market. He hit 33 home runs with 100 RBI, plus gained notoriety within the clubhouse as a true veteran leader—which came in handy for young stars like Bryce Harper.
However, after all is dissected from the statistical end of things, his best move would be to re-sign with the Nationals. (A move that will help both the organization and LaRoche.)
The free agency market is a money-frenzied machine—on a good day—leaving the greatest of players to throw winning and team under the bus for the biggest deal.
While players like Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton will likely follow the formula—landing big deals with teams, possibly ignoring the past records—LaRoche can dodge the trend by sticking where he is needed, standing nowhere else as Washington's first baseman.
The move works as a double-edged sword.
There is no real blame for LaRoche to test the market—again, he has earned it—however it should take less than a day to see that first base-needs for teams not in the 2013 cellar is sparse. With that in mind, the Washington Nationals must realize the market trend, too.
Lefty-handed first baseman that hit for power, average and RBI production—plus play great defense and lead in the clubhouse—don't grow on trees. If the Nationals are to contend in 2013 then LaRoche needs to be "manning the 3-corner" for that to be accomplished.
Sure, a multi-year deal can be a risk for someone that may produce on a season-by-season basis, but the continuing headache of finding something better outweighs the current decision; as of today—the last time I checked—the Nationals will have enough headaches proving their worth for 2013; minimizing the damage and moves leading into the season can only help them re-gain the playoff prowess next year—perhaps moving past the ALDS.
In order to do that, the Nationals will need to get LaRoche back in the clubhouse for 2013.
( all stats provided came from baseball-reference.com. unless otherwise noted.)