Nats GM Rizzo on LaRoche deal; possible Morse trade
Updated at 4:25 p.m.
The Nationals' unwillingness to budge on their longstanding, two-year offer to Adam LaRoche paid off in the end. LaRoche today agreed to the deal after failing to find another club willing to give the free agent first baseman the guaranteed, three-year contract he sought all along.
The final contract, which was officially announced by the Nationals late this afternoon, guarantees $24 million. LaRoche will earn salaries of $10 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014, with a $2 million buyout in 2015 if either side elects not to pick up a $15 million mutual option.
The Nationals had expressed interest from the start in re-signing LaRoche, who led the club with 33 homers and 100 RBI while winning his first career Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. And the 33-year-old veteran had said all along he preferred to stay in Washington after playing a vital role in the Nats' first-ever playoff run.
But LaRoche made it clear from the beginning he wanted a three-year contract and was willing to wait it out to secure what he felt was the best offer from any club -- the Nationals or otherwise -- that also presented an opportunity to compete for a World Series title.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo never budged on his two-year offer, explaining his rationale to LaRoche in person: With every other position on the field locked up through at least 2015, Rizzo wanted to ensure at least some long-term roster flexibility.
So LaRoche set off to find if any other organizations were willing to offer three year contracts, with the Red Sox, Rangers and Orioles among the potential suitors. None of those clubs, though, was willing to go to a third year, in part because none wanted to give up the draft pick that would have been required after the Nationals made a $13.3 million qualifying offer to LaRoche in early November.
Rizzo all along felt that qualifying offer -- which also would have guaranteed draft pick compensation to the Nationals had LaRoche signed elsewhere -- would help increase the chances of the first baseman staying in D.C. And the GM was proven correct.
With LaRoche now back in the fold, the Nationals' starting lineup appears set. LaRoche will join Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman in the infield. Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth will comprise the outfield. Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos will share catching duties.
That leaves no everyday position for Michael Morse, who spent last season in left field and would have been shifted to first base had LaRoche not returned. Now the Nationals will seek to trade Morse, who is due to become a free agent at the end of the season.
Rizzo will be hoping to land starting pitching depth or a left-handed reliever in exchange for Morse, who will make $6.75 million this season.