Adam LaRoche once again craved a three-year deal, and once again he didn’t get one. Still, the 33-year-old first baseman did just fine, coming to terms with the Washington Nationals on a two-year deal that will pay him$22 million and $2 million more if the player’s 2015 mutual option isn’t picked up. There were other teams in on LaRoche over the past few weeks, but now he’ll be staying put. This isn’t surprising, but once the Nationals acquired Denard Span there was some speculation that Michael Morse would shift to first and LaRoche would be headed elsewhere.
Per FanGraphs WAR, LaRoche had the best season of his career by far in 2012. LaRoche tallied 3.8 WAR while hitting .271/.343/.510 and slugging 33 home runs. UZR continued to have positive things to say about his defense, though first base is one position the advanced metric has traditionally struggled with. While LaRoche had a nice enough season last year, it’s more likely he’ll produce at a slightly lower level as he has for most of his career. With first base production on the decline over the past couple of years, he’ll get the job done for a team that will certainly contend again in 2013.
There’s a decent chance LaRoche earns his contract over the next two seasons, but he’s not going to be a star and he’s not going to put up a pair of campaigns like he did in 2012. Perhaps more importantly, I’m not entirely sure signing LaRoche was something that the Nationals even needed to do. Moving Morse to first would have masked his outfield ineptitude, and he certainly has the bat to generate as much or more power than LaRoche. Instead, the Nationals spent more money to retain the more certain adequacy of LaRoche, so they’ll have a little more pop in the lineup than they would have otherwise so long as they can find somewhere to hide Morse so his muscular arms can thwack balls over the fence here and there. I’m sure Nationals fans are just glad this thing didn’t include a guaranteed third year.