Adam LaRoche’s 2013 Option

Adam LaRoche’s first year in Washington featured unproductive play, shoulder surgery and a constant stream of Prince Fielder-related rumors and speculation. But the second season of his contract is going precisely according to plan, so it’s time to wonder if he’ll be back in D.C. for a third year.

Adam LaRoche - Nationals (PW)

The Nationals have enjoyed a prototypical Adam LaRoche season so far in 2012. The first baseman has 23 home runs, 27 doubles and a .261/.334/.481 batting line in 506 plate appearances. His slash line closely resembles his career mark of .267/.337/.478. It’s not too far off of the MLB average at first base — currently .262/.336/.442 — but there’s value in securing league average offensive production at first (just ask the Mariners or Indians).

There are three ways Laroche could return to the Nationals in 2013. The sides could exercise a $10MM mutual option for 2013 ($1MM buyout). He could accept a one-year qualifying offer should the Nationals extend him one. Or they could agree to a contract independent of the mutual option and qualifying offer.

Let’s start with the option. A net cost of $9MM isn’t unreasonable for LaRoche, but it’s no bargain. That said, this year’s class of free agent first basemen is notably thin. There’s James Loney, Carlos Pena, Carlos Lee, Casey Kotchman and, if he decides to continue playing, Lance Berkman. None of those first basemen are safer bets than LaRoche for 25 home runs and two wins above replacement in 2013.

Yet it’s uncommon for both sides to exercise a mutual option, so LaRoche could land on the open market this offseason. If this occurs, the Nationals will have to determine whether to extend him a qualifying offer. It’s the only way for Washington to obtain draft pick compensation for LaRoche, but I don’t expect the team to make him such an offer. 

Qualifying offers will be worth $13MM-plus, and recent history indicates the industry doesn't view LaRoche as a $13MM player. The SFX client obtained $16MM for two years following the 2010 season. Before he signed with Washington, the Diamondbacks declined to pick up their side of a $7.5MM mutual option, another indication that teams view him as a player whose value sits somewhere south of $10MM per year. 

If the Nationals do make LaRoche a qualifying offer, it’d likely be advisable for him to accept. Teams probably wouldn’t want to surrender a top draft pick to sign a solid but unspectacular first baseman who turns 33 the first week of November. As a result, it seems likely LaRoche would say ‘yes’ if the Nationals extend a $13MM qualifying offer. 

As mentioned before, there’s a third way LaRoche could return to Washington. The team could decline its side of the mutual option, decline to make a qualifying offer and bid for LaRoche’s services on the free agent market.

The Nationals’ interest in keeping LaRoche will presumably depend on their center field situation. If they decide to rely on internal options in center, they won’t need to move Michael Morse to first base. But if they intend to pursue a center fielder, their corner outfield spots will presumably go to Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper. This would shift Morse to first base and could reduce the Nationals’ interest in LaRoche.

Perhaps LaRoche’s mutual option will appeal to both sides. It would provide the Nationals with certainty at first base and ensure LaRoche of a $10MM salary. However, the Nationals could decide to move on without LaRoche this offseason and I’ll be surprised if he obtains a qualifying offer.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

35 Responses to Adam LaRoche’s 2013 Option Leave a Reply

  1. John 3 years ago

    As a Nats fan, I’ve been satisfied with ALR’s performance this year and would probably prefer him over Morse at first next year. However, Rizzo has been set on obtaining a CF/leadoff bat for quite some time now. I would be surprised if he didn’t take the opportunity to obtain one.

  2. Karkat 3 years ago

    I liked LaRoche for that week he was in Boston (got to see one of the games he played in at Fenway before they shipped him off.) Seems like maybe a nice, relatively affordable option for a 2-3 year deal if Washington lets him go (and/or LaRoche turns down his side of the option, which seems more likely)?

    • Lefty_Orioles_Fan 3 years ago

      I am not a huge LaRoche fan, but the 1st base free agency field is really weak for the 2013 season. LaRoche is the best of that field by far (imo). He plays good defense and he will probable get you at least 20 hr’s and 80 rbi’s, not too shabby.
      If I am the Nationals, I pick up that option to play keep away from other teams who are looking for 1st basemen. IMO, he might become a very valuable trade chip sometime in the 2013. I mean the Lerner’s aren’t poor, they can pull it off financially and quite frankly it would be a good investment.

      • Karkat 3 years ago

        I wonder if the thinness of the field will keep LaRoche from exercising his half. Yeah, 10mil is probably better than any AAV he’d get offered, but I have to figure most players are going to prefer taking a multiyear deal, and LaRoche seems like he could reasonably shoot for 8-9 per on such a deal.

        • tpr1441 3 years ago

          I have to agree he’d be much better off testing free agency. A long term 2-3 year deal would net more guaranteed money and you’d think he’d be far more interested (at this point in his career) in long term security than a 1 year pay out.

          I also think he’s the kinda player that would be a good fit in Boston. They can bring him in on a multi-year deal which gives them time to figure out the future at the position while he provides an above average glove and bat in the interim.

        • Crucisnh 3 years ago

          I agree with this post Karket, but I’d also point out that the same result could be accomplished if the Nats were the team to offer LaRoche to 2-3 yr deal before he hits free agency. OTOH, if LaRoche and/or his agent is a little greedy, he may choose to test free agency regardless because if the thin field. They might think that they could get a little extra money out of a minor bidding war for his services.

          • johnsilver 3 years ago

            I would be wary giving either of Pena/LaRoche anything over 1 year and not more than 8-10m. both are pull hitters, wouldn’t be seen as exactly OB machines. Both are decent with the glove and provide power is what a team will get, but how much of that would translate to fenway is a good question.

            As bad as the situation with 1b is around the league? Both Pena and LaRoche are going to get overpaid and too many years. boston is probably going to be better off signing a defensive 1st guy who is an offensive liability to a safe contract.. Kotchman, maybe even Loney.

            Just because they finally got rid of a couple of high dollar contracts and underneath beckett’s doesn’t need they need to replace his with one equally as bad.

    • ugotrpk3113 3 years ago

      Agree – This is the type of option I want to see Boston look into (if available)

      • Crucisnh 3 years ago

        Also agreed. LaRoche is a reasonable option for reasonable money that would make sense in the aftermath of the mega-deal.

    • APNDaveR 3 years ago

      I think he’d fit in well personality-wise, too. But as arguably the best straight 1B* of a thin crop, he might price himself out of what the Red Sox would be willing to spend on a stopgap.

      If Loney plays half decently, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Sox tried to bring him back on a 1-year at the dirt cheap rate he’s probably going to have to accept. A lower-risk, lower-reward version of the Beltre deal.

      *as opposed to players who figure to move to 1B, e.g. Napoli or Swisher.

    • Tko11 3 years ago

      Thats what I hope happens, Id like to see them resign Ross, LaRoche if hes available and possibly resign Ortiz. The rest of the moves should be addressing the pen and filling out the rotation.

      • Karkat 3 years ago

        I’m not even sure what they’d do rotation-wise. Lester and Buchholz are clearly there. Lackey needs to be for the money he’s being paid. Doubront almost certainly has a spot locked down, and they’re gonna get Rubby De La Rosa (great name) as a PTBNL. Plus they’ll have Morales, and maybe Aceves?, for immediate depth. Rotation-wise they should be looking for the Aaron Cook types who can come and make solid spot starts if needed and otherwise do solid work out of the pen.

        • Tko11 3 years ago

          Yea as long as they stay away from Greinke and other expensive options then ill be happy. Sign some Aaron Cook type guys and let them fight over the remaining 2-3 spots in the spring. I just hope they can get LaRoche or else they may be stuck with Loney for an entire year and I really do not want to see that.

  3. thegrayrace 3 years ago

    Nick Swisher and Mike Napoli are both free agents that could be considered for 1B, no?

    • mlbscout6 3 years ago

      Good point, but I think the money they are going to receive would make it cost prohibitive for most teams to put them at 1st. Napoli is going to want to get paid like the power hitting catcher he has been, and swish has already said he wants $100 mil. An interesting name they left out though is Lyle Overbay and possibly Youkillis if his option is not picked up.

      • thegrayrace 3 years ago

        It really doesn’t matter what Swisher says he wants. He is going to take the best offer he can get, just like most every other free agent. Saying he wants $100m won’t increase his value or the offers teams will extend to him. Too much is made of players saying these things…

        Napoli could certainly command a lot for 1B because of his ability to catch, but he’s also coming off a relatively weak season in which he’s had some injury issues… so who knows.

        • mlbscout6 3 years ago

          You missed the entire point of my comment. The point was that some team will pay Napoli like a catcher who can hit the way he does, while a first baseman with comparable hitting skills wouldn’t be worthy of that kind of money, thus pricing himself outside the range teams would be willing to spend on him to be an average 1stbaseman. Same goes for Swish, some team will give him outfielder money.

          • thegrayrace 3 years ago

            I didn’t miss your point. I agreed about Napoli.

            As far as Swisher, considering the strength of the OF market with Hamilton, Bourn, Victorino, Upton, Ross, etc… Swisher probably isn’t going to get more money because of his ability to play OF. Besides, corner outfielders aren’t paid considerably more than 1B, anyway.

        • $3081341 3 years ago

          No chance in hell Swish gets $100 mill, not a chance. Their all right around the same in terms of OPS. Unless there’s a trade out there, which I don’t see at the moment. Your best bet is to stick with what you’ve got for now & go for the CF/leadoff hitter you’ve been coveting all along (i.e. Victorino, Bourn, Pagan, or trade for Span).

  4. Jim McGrath 3 years ago

    How about Ellsbury for LaRoche or Ells for Morse?

    • APNDaveR 3 years ago

      Edit: scratch this. Thought Morse was signed through 2014. Never mind….

    • Tko11 3 years ago

      Yes Ellsbury for LaRoche, Middlebrooks for Werth, who else do you want?

  5. CoryCorruption 3 years ago

    Tyler Moore could step in next year and produce similar numbers. This guy needs some quality playing time.

    • Goose 3 years ago

      Took the words out of my mouth Corry. How does a guy who hit 30HRs at AA and AAA and then looked decent not get a shot? The Nats get to pocket the dough and focus on getting guys like Zimmerman, Strasburg and Harper signed to longer contracts.

  6. phillies1102 3 years ago

    The Nats really should keep Morse at 1B, its where he fits best. Plus, the market this year for OF is much better than 1B. Either Michael Bourn or BJ Upton might be interesting, considering WAS still has no leadoff hitter. Moore is a prospect who does deserve a look, but as a team leading the division for years to come, depth is important. If anything injury were to occur to any of you OF/1B (which is likely), Moore can step up to be of value, but I believe it would be in Wasington to obtain a solid, proven veteran to help lead this young club. Bourn would fit that role, so would Upton, but regardless, picking up LaRoche would not be the best way to spend 10 mil.

    • $3081341 3 years ago

      Upton is not a leadoff hitter, Bourn is.

      • phillies1102 3 years ago

        Ya, but you figure that he would make a better leadoff hitter than anyone else on the team, given his high stolen base numbers. Even if Upton isn’t ideal, Victorino or Pagan are other options, I was just making a point

        • johnsilver 3 years ago

          Upton doesn’t get on base enough and doesn’t even put the ball in play enough really to use his legs as a leadoff hitter.

          His OBP has been south of .331 since 2008 and he K’s 25% + of the time. Upton, on many teams would hit way further down in a lineup than he does with the offensively challenged Rays.

  7. Jeff 3 years ago

    These are the kind of posts I come to this site for. Some true analysis that’s easy for any fan to read, and doesn’t get too lost in sabermetrics and stats (though they are used mildly in this piece).

    • Tko11 3 years ago

      I despise sabermetrics!! In a few years they will create some crazy formula that takes into account the lighting at the stadium, the dampness of the dirt on the mound and if any insects may have touched the baseball on its way to home plate and some other ridiculous factors. Just so we can know exactly how good or bad a pticher is. Just watching the games will become useless.

  8. I hope the Nats hang on to him. Morse and Moore could produce similar offensive numbers at 1B but neither can compare defensively. After a couple years of having to watch Dunn play 1B, I’m really enjoying LaRoche’s slick glovework (aside from that pop-up he dropped in SF the other week).

  9. tomymogo 3 years ago

    What I would do is simple. I wouldn’t excercise it, and move Morse to 1B. Use the money to sign Michael Bourn, move Harper to LF

  10. ChiefHungLikeABear 3 years ago

    It’s hard to see Morse AND LaRoche coming back next year. Morse, they could get something for in a trade but he’s also younger and, presumably, a tad cheaper.

    A big part of the X-factor regarding this is the Nats have CFs who can bat leadoff coming through the system that should be MLB-ready soon.

    Eury Perez is hitting .333 as a leadoff hitter in Syracuse and has great CF range. Right behind him is Brian Goodwin who got bumped up to AA after tearing up Sally League pitching.

    Those guys will be knocking on the door in spring training and Perez just might make the team, which brings us back to the team needing to decide on whether they keep Morse or LaRoche.

  11. Cha5678 3 years ago

    LaRoche isn’t coming back without winning a postseason MVP award. Nats have talked about a CF for years now. Between Bourn, Victorino, Upton on the FA market and Perez/Bernandina in the organization, another year of Harper in center field is unlikely. Unless they choose to start or platoon Tyler Moore.

  12. DCSportsFanMike 3 years ago

    I wonder how much of this is still true. I can’t imagine the Nats not making him a qualifying offer and, if he accepts it, being thrilled to get him back with no long term risk.

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