You would think that a free agent first baseman that slugged 33 home runs, drove in 100 runs and won a Gold Glove the previous season would be locked up to a contract as soon as the World Series ended.
However, that’s not that case with veteran Adam LaRoche. As the calendar turns to 2013, LaRoche, who played last season with the Washington Nationals, remains unsigned.
The 33-year-old is said to be holding out for a three-year deal, and teams are hesitant to make that sort of time commitment, especially since signing him would require the loss of a compensation draft pick.
As it stands, the Nationals are only offering a two-year contract. But based on other roster moves, LaRoche doesn’t seem to fit into Washington’s long-term plans.
The team traded for Denard Span to take over in center field, meaning Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth will man the corner outfield positions. If so, Mike Morse — a natural first baseman — will move from left field to first base.
Of course, the team can look to trade Morse for relief help (the Nats could use a lefty after losing Sean Burnett and Mike Gonzalez). Then, LaRoche becomes the top option for first, and maybe the Nats would then opt for the three-year deal.
If the Nats choose to pass, there are several teams that would make sense for LaRoche, the first of which being the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers lost Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli from their potent offense and will need a run producer in the middle of the order to keep up with the much-improved Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Unless Texas is ready to hand the reigns at first base over to youngsters Mike Olt or Mitch Moreland, LaRoche would fit nicely in the lineup between Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz.
Speaking of Napoli, his three-year deal with the Red Sox has yet to be signed since Boston is concerned with his injury history. If that deal falls through, LaRoche would be high on the wish list. LaRoche played six games with the Red Sox in 2009 before being shipped to the Atlanta Braves.
If the Red Sox signed LaRoche, they would not lose a first-round draft pick, since they finished with the seventh-worst record in the league last season. The pick would instead be a second-rounder.
Finally, the Baltimore Orioles could use LaRoche. With Nick Markakis ready to start the season healthy, he’ll be back in right field. Chris Davis, not really known for his glove, played right field for much of last season, but he’s much better suited as a first baseman or even DH.
If Davis is slated as the DH, LaRoche could be signed to play first base. His defense is just as valuable as his offense, and LaRoche would help the Orioles maintain their 2012 success.
The Rangers and Orioles would lose the first-round compensation pick, so if the Nationals can’t work out a deal and the Napoli deal falls through, a reunion between LaRoche and the Red Sox might be the best fit.
Still, for a guy that had the type of season he had in 2012, it’s strange the LaRoche has yet to find a new home, even with his desire for a three-year deal.