Market for LaRoche is thinning

Market for LaRoche is thinning
December 3, 2012, 12:45 pm
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Adam LaRoche not worried about trade for Span

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The number of teams interested in Adam LaRoche dropped by one this morning when the Red Sox signed Mike Napoli, but the Nationals still face some competition for the veteran first baseman.

The Red Sox were thought all along as one of the likeliest destinations for LaRoche if he didn't return to Washington. But Boston this morning inked Napoli to a three-year, $39 million contract and no longer has a need for LaRoche.

That thins the ranks of clubs in the mix for the 33-year-old and certainly puts the Nationals in a more advantageous position, though it doesn't guarantee his return.

The Nats' chief competition at this point could be the Rangers, who now need to fill the void created by Napoli's departure. Texas does have 27-year-old Mitch Moreland at the position but could feel pressure to upgrade offensively, especially if center fielder Josh Hamilton (also a free agent) winds up elsewhere.

Other teams who have been linked to LaRoche include the Orioles and Mariners, though Baltimore doesn't appear willing to offer the three-year deal LaRoche seeks and Seattle can't offer the same opportunity to contend for a World Series right now that the Nationals and Rangers can claim.

To date, the Nationals haven't budged from their two-year offer. General manager Mike Rizzo met with LaRoche in person over the weekend at manager Davey Johnson's charity golf event in Orlando and explained the club's position, wanting to maintain some roster flexibility after 2014.

The Napoli signing in Boston gives the Nationals some added leverage in dealing with LaRoche. So does the fact they already have Michael Morse available to play first base if they don't re-sign LaRoche.

Morse would need to be traded if LaRoche returns.

"It's kind of up in the air who's going to be at first," LaRoche said over the weekend at the golf event. "It's between me and Mikey. Mike's obviously a great friend of mine. However it works out, it does."

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