Nationals re-sign Adam LaRoche, will look to trade Michael Morse

The Washington Nationals finally agreed to a contract with first baseman Adam LaRoche, a month after initially offering the deal to him. The deal is for two years, with LaRoche making $24 million. He'll make $10 million in 2013, $12 million in 2014, and there is a mutual option for 2015 with a $2 million buyout.

After a lost 2011 season, LaRoche rebounded in a big way in 2012. His 33 homers were a career-high that led the team, and his .853 OPS was his best since he was a 26-year old with the Braves in 2006. The 33-year old declined his end of a $10 million mutual option for the 2013 season, and also declined the Nationals' $13.3 million qualifying offer. With teams scared away from signing him (and the three other remaining qualifying offer denying free agents), LaRoche was pretty much backed into a corner, leading the Nationals to getting a solid enough deal on his contract. Essentially, the team tacked another year on to his existing contract at less than the qualifying offer. Not a bad deal at all for Washington, even if LaRoche's production declines by a win in 2013 and 2014.

LaRoche's re-signing pretty much ends the tenure of Michael Morse in Washington. Morse, who played first base in 2011 and left field and right field in 2012 for Washington, is now left without a position for 2013 after the re-signing of LaRoche and the Nationals' acquisition of Denard Span earlier this winter, shifting Bryce Harper to left field. Morse was worth barely above replacement level last year due to his poor defense and baserunning, but still provided the Nationals with a .791 OPS and 18 homers, a year after setting career-bests with 31 homers and a .910 OPS. Morse, who will be 31 in March, is scheduled to make $7 million in 2013 and will be a free agent after the season.

The Nationals are already involved in talks with five or six teams about Morse, and one would think that he'll be moved by the end of the week at the latest. Morse would be a solid fit for a team that needs a corner outfield power bat in the middle of the lineup, with the Braves, Orioles, Mariners, Yankees, and Mets potentially fitting well. However, Morse's below average defense could scare some teams away unless they have a capable defender in center. I don't think the Nationals will get much of a return in terms of prospects for Morse, due to his age and just one year of control, but then again, the Indians did manage to turn one year of Shin-Soo Choo (just four months younger than Morse) into Drew Stubbs and Didi Gregorius. I don't think that Washington could get a pair of players like that back for Morse, but a top ten prospect or younger major league starter could be a fair return. We'll see what ends up happening, but I guarantee you that Morse will be moved.

LaRoche's re-signing also throws the future of Anthony Rendon into question a little bit, but that's not something this team needs to worry about right now. Rendon's first pro season in 2012 was nearly a total loss, as he played a total of just 43 games in the minors due to injuries. In the AFL this fall, Rendon was healthy and posted an .830 OPS in 22 games. The team will likely treat him with kid gloves, slowly moving him through AA and AAA over the next two years. By that time, LaRoche's option year will be upon the Nationals, and they can shift Ryan Zimmerman to first base, allowing Rendon to take over for Zimmerman at third. But if Rendon starts smashing the ball this year and presses the issue like Bryce Harper did last year, Washington will be faced with an interesting decision for 2014 when it comes to potentially trading LaRoche.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.

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