Time running out for Nats and LaRoche

Time running out for Nats and LaRoche
December 21, 2012, 9:15 am

Earlier this month, when talks with Adam LaRoche seemed to be progressing, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he wanted resolution to his No. 1 offseason task by Christmas.

We're now four days from that self-imposed deadline, and with few developments over the last few weeks, there's little reason to believe resolution is near.

The sticking point remains the same thing it's been all along: LaRoche wants three guaranteed years, Rizzo isn't willing to go beyond two. Throughout the process, other clubs have been mentioned as potential alternatives for the 33-year-old first baseman, yet none has emerged as a serious threat.

The Rangers appeared to be LaRoche's best non-Nationals option, especially after star slugger Josh Hamilton bolted for Anaheim last week, but they've hit the same sticking points that has scared off other suitors.

According to a source close to the organization, Texas GM Jon Daniels is unlikely to offer LaRoche a three-year deal and doesn't want to lose the first-round draft pick that would be stripped from him if he signs a free agent who was given a qualifying offer from his former club.

(The Nationals made that qualifying offer to LaRoche in early November: a one-year, $13.3 million contract. He turned it down, triggering the clause that would force any other team that signs him to forfeit its first-round draft pick -- or, if the team holds one of the top-10 picks, its second-round selection -- while compensating the Nationals with a "sandwich" pick between the first two rounds.)

The potential loss of a first-round pick also is scaring off the Orioles from making a stronger push to sign LaRoche, according to two sources close to the organization. Baltimore, coming off its first postseason appearance in 15 years, has yet to sign an outside free agent to a major-league contract this winter.

That leaves the Mariners as perhaps LaRoche's only other suitor, though their need for a first baseman diminished this week when they acquired Kendrys Morales from the Angels. Even without that trade, Seattle was a less-appealing destination for LaRoche, who has stated his desire to play for a team with a better chance of winning the World Series in the next three years.

Where does this leave LaRoche and the Nationals? Pretty much right back where they started nearly two months ago.

He wants to return. They want him back. He wants three years. They won't offer more than two. There doesn't appear to be another viable suitor for a Gold Glove-winning, Silver Slugger-winning first baseman.

And, unless either or both sides make a major concession in the next few days, this saga figures to extend beyond Rizzo's previously stated Christmas deadline.