Earlier today, the Nationals and first baseman Adam LaRoche reached agreement on a two-year, $24MM deal with a mutual option for the 2015 season. Both parties had well-documented interest in a reunion, but they were at an impasse over the length of the deal.
LaRoche, 33, wanted a three-year deal while the Nats said that they would not go beyond two. It was reported that the Nationals were confident that no one would go to three years for the veteran, but General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters on a conference call this afternoon that he saw it as a very real possibility.
"He's a terrific player coming off of a terrific year. And you know, the market for that kind of player is huge, so it did cross our mind. We were being really honest with Adam and his people, this was about us having a good in-house backup plan that we didn't really have to worry about. If a team was going to overwhelm Adam, we had our Plan B in place, but all along Adam was our first choice and our Plan A," Rizzo said.
With Mike Morse in place as a backup plan, Rizzo said that he found himself in an "enviable position in negotiations" and that allowed the club to be patient in their talks with LaRoche. While Rizzo was willing to wait for the right deal, he admitted that he was anxious to get everything squared away.
"We were both getting tired of the process. We had a lot of conversations back and forth with his representatives. [Adam and I] had a few private conversation and I made it clear to Adam that it was time to make a decision. Our offer was on the table for quite a while and we had other things to move on to. He made it clear that he wanted to move on too," said the GM.
While Rizzo is now open to moving Morse in a deal and has a number of interested suitors, he says that he won't move the first baseman/outfielder unless he can get impact players in return, whether they're big league ready or minor league prospects. If that kind of deal doesn't present itself, then Rizzo won't force a trade involving a "middle of the lineup hitter that's fairly attractively priced."
The Nationals tried to add a left-hander reliever this winter and still might, but Rizzo says that he didn't sign a southpaw in part because the club feels comfortable with the bullpen pieces that they already have in place. Rizzo believes that his right-handers get lefties out better than most left-handed specialists and noted that manager Davey Johnson isn't a big fan of lefty-on-lefty matchups anyway. The Nats were heavily linked to J.P. Howell before he signed on with the Dodgers last week.