On Friday, Adam LaRoche rejected a $13.3 million one-year offer from the Washington Nationals, the team he’s been with for the past two years. the $13.3 million offer was the average of the previous year’s top 125 salaries in baseball. However, although Adam rejected the offer, the Nationals can still try to re-sign him. If he does sign elsewhere, the offer gives the Nats draft-pick compensation next year.
Adam has been with the Nats for two years. He missed most of 2011 after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. However, he rebounded nicely in 2012, batting .271 with 33 homeruns, 100 RBIs, and an OPS of .853, good enough to be named the recipient of the 2012 National League 1st Base Silver Slugger Award. He had an extremely important role in leading the Nationals to their first-ever playoff appearance after a division title and the best record in MLB in 2012. In the postseason, he hit 2 solo homeruns and walked 4 times. The Nationals made it clear that they wanted to bring him back, and their hope, contrary to what the qualifying offer might suggest, is to keep Adam in a Nats uniform for multiple years. Not only does Adam’s bat lead the team; his fielding is something to be envied as well. He led all National League 1st basemen in fielding percentage (.995), games started (149), and innings (1,323.1). One member of each team was also given the Wilson defensive award for the best defense on their respective team. Adam earned that as well. His veteran leadership is another asset that you can’t quite put a price on.
If the Nationals were to lose Adam, they would move Michael Morse to 1st base. Morse batted .291 this year with 18 homeruns, 62 RBIs, and an OPS of .791. He would be a step down from the offensive numbers Adam put up. Morse only played 1st base in 1 game this year. He played for 5 innings without an error in 9 chances. In 2011, with Adam missing much of the year, Morse played 85 games at 1st base, making 6 errors in 793 chances for a fielding percentage of .992. He also batted .303 that year with 31 homeruns and 95 RBIs. If he could put up those kinds of numbers again, the Nationals could survive reasonably well. If Adam returns to the Nats, Morse would likely be traded.
The Red Sox have also shown interest in Adam. With the re-signing of David Ortiz, the Sox have that middle spot in the order filled. In just 90 games in 2012, Ortiz batted .318 with 23 homeruns. Ortiz is also about to turn 37, so he fills that veteran role on the team. However, the Red Sox are currently lacking a 1st baseman. They traded Adrian Gonzalez during the season after he batted .300 with 15 homeruns in 123 games for them in 2012. He was traded for James Loney, who finished the season at 1st base with a .230 average and 2 homeruns in 30 games. Gonzalez made just 2 errors for the Red Sox; Loney made none. If the Red Sox don’t find a suitable 1st baseman, they’ll be hurting defensively and potentially offensively as well.
However, the Red Sox also need two outfielders, a shortstop, and a starting pitcher. Re-signing David Ortiz wasn’t cheap, signing catcher David Ross wasn’t cheap, and neither will filling all of those other holes. Adam wants a multi-year deal and just turned down $13.3 million for one year. There’s a chance he’d compromise his pay for a multi-year deal but no guarantee. Although the Red Sox have a comfortable amount of money, they have a limited amount and a lot to do.
Adam has played for the Red Sox before. He played 6 games in 2009 after being acquired from Pittsburgh and before being sent to Atlanta. He batted .263 with 2 doubles, a homerun, and 3 RBIs. It’s a small sample size, obviously, but Adam seemed to feel comfortable quickly. He didn’t make an error while with Boston either.
The Texas Rangers are also pursuing Adam. They’ve lost superstar Josh Hamilton to free agency, and they’re facing the possibility of not being able to re-sign him. Hamilton has the best 2012 OPS of all free agents this year. The second highest OPS belongs to Adam, of course. Hamilton set a career high this year with 43 homeruns and fell just 2 short of his career high in RBIs with 128. He batted .285 and managed to steal himself 7 bases as well. He made the All-Star team as well. Hamilton is an outfielder, so defensive comparisons are irrelevant. Hamilton was also offered–and rejected–a qualifying offer of $13.3 million for one year. The Rangers are staying in contact with Hamilton’s agent, but there are at least 3 other teams pursuing the slugger as well.
Mitch Moreland is the Rangers’ current 1st baseman. He played 95 games at 1st base this year, 739.1 innings. He made just 3 errors in 751 chances for a .996 fielding percentage. His bat was decent as well, as he batted .275 with 15 homeruns and 50 RBIs in 114 games. However, Adam’s bat would be an upgrade, and replacing Hamilton’s offense and leadership is a must if he does not return. Besides possibly adding some starting pitching, the Rangers don’t seem to have any more large holes to fill. Losing Hamilton would also free up some additional money.
Adam is a country man who seems to be a better fit in a place like Texas than in a high-pressure city like Boston. Of course, a return to the Nationals, where he’s comfortably spent the past two years, is a possibility as well. Depending on how much the Red Sox have to spend, the Rangers and Nationals seem to be the more likely suitors.
Fans, players, and front office personnel alike would love for Adam to return to the Nationals. “Because of what he means to the team, how he balances the lineup, the type of defense he gives us and his leadership, it makes him an important guy for us to lock up,” says Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo.
A couple of months ago, Adam made it clear that he too would like to be a part of the Nationals’ bright future. “I want to be a part of this, not just this year, but in the future, too. If it works out — great. If not, it’s unfortunate.”