At this point, it seems like a match: Adam LaRoche and the Nationals need each other. The Nats seek a proven solution at first base in the wake of Adam Dunn's departure, and they've got the money to spend on the multiyear deal that LaRoche is seeking. With Derrek Lee off the table and on his way to Baltimore, it seems simple. And yet, it hasn't happened. LaRoche is still seeking a three-year deal, but without much obvious competition, the Nats have no reason to bid against themselves and increase their standing two-year offer.
Earlier today, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo speculated that the Nats may eventually cave into LaRoche's demands, but what if GM Mike Rizzo and his staff decide to stand their ground? LaRoche could conceivably sign yet another one-year deal somewhere and hope to cash in on a strong season, or sign a two-year deal with a team more apt to contend in the near future. Let's look at some possibilities:
- Rays: Tampa Bay lost Carlos Pena to free agency, and is currently looking to the likes of Dan Johnson as an option for both first base and DH. The Rays may not be able to offer the salary LaRoche would prefer, but their pitching staff and young core offer a shot at contention.
- Rangers: Mitch Moreland and Chris Davis are no sure things as first base options, and Texas offers one of the best environments for a slugger to build up some value on a short-term deal while also offering a chance to contend.
- Padres: While the spacious confines of Petco Park represent the opposite situation of those in Texas, LaRoche is a native of southern California. The Pads added Brad Hawpe earlier this offseason, but he carries plenty of question marks as a first baseman. If LaRoche's price drops enough, it's not unthinkable to see a match.
- Mariners, Braves: Both clubs have big-time prospects set to take over at first base in Justin Smoak and Freddie Freeman, respectively. If either club is hesitant about their young options though (Freeman is just 21 years old, Smoak is 24), LaRoche could represent a solid stopgap.
When it's all said and done, none of these teams are an ideal match; the Nationals represent the best fit for the 31-year-old LaRoche. Still, he and his agents at SFX could potentially drum up enough competition to either force the Nationals into a three-year commitment or find work elsewhere should the Nats hold their ground.