The Nationals have only one pressing issue this offseason and that's what to do about Adam LaRoche and by extension Mike Morse.
Two years ago the Nats signed Adam LaRoche to a 2 year 15 million dollar deal, with a mutual option on a 3rd year for 10 million. Many fans would like to see the same deal offered to Adam. That makes sense for the Nats. Adam is 2 years older, meaning you are less likely to want to give him more years. He suffered through a debilitating injury. The Nats have a good young corner infielder who will hopefully be ready for the majors in 2014 or so. Unfortunately the deal doesn't make sense for Adam.
Let's understand why Adam got the deal he did in the first place. Adam had just come off his worst year since 2005. It wasn't a terrible year mind you (.261 / .320 / .468) but an off year at age 30 sets off warning signals. Could he be reaching the end? That drives down his price. At the same time there was a glut of first baseman available that at the time you thought were of roughly the same talent level. Of course there was perennial 40 homer guy Adam Dunn. There was Paul Konerko, who had just put up a monster year. Aubrey Huff also off a good year and with a better year at the plate in 2008 than LaRoche had ever had. The remarkable consistency of Derek Lee who just in 2009 produced a great year. The promise of Carlos Pena who had shown so much pop from 2007-2009 people were willing to look past an .196 BA in 2010. Hell even Lyle Overbay looked similar to what LaRoche put up. There were a lot of other options if you didn't want to pay someone a big contract.
2010 Stats : .261 / .320 / .468
2010 1B MLB Ave : .264 /.350 / .452
Now he's coming off a year that he finished 6th in MVP voting. He had his best year of his career. .271 / .343 / .510. And while age 32 is getting a bit long in the tooth, most teams don't start getting very wary until 35, especially if they are seeing results currently on the field. After him there is next to nothing available. In terms of true first basemen you are literally scraping the bottom of the barrel. Older and more useless Lyle Overbay? You could try to put Mike Napoli there or Nick Swisher but in a league that's increasing concerned with defensive value those are longer stretches than they would have been 5 years ago. There may not be a lot of suitors but LaRoche IS the first base market.
2012 Stats : .271 / .343 / .510
2010 1B MLB Ave : .262 /.336 / .442
Overall, first base has taken a step back and LaRoche took a step foward last year. He went from a tinge below average for first basemen in 2010 to solidly better than average for first baseman in 2012, yet hardly anyone thinks of him differently. It's all about timing.
Adam is worth more now in 2012 than he was worth in 2010, that means he should, and probably will, sign for a better deal. Most early reports have something in the neighborhood of 3 guaranteed years, 30 million as a starting point.
Is he worth it? Probably not. If Adam LaRoche hits as everyone expects him too (not as good as last year better than 2010, 2011) then 10 million a year is just about right, given his fielding. However, he'd have to do this for 3 more years and at this age you can't take that for a given. Most likely his production will slowly tail off. Do you want to be paying 10 million for a firstbaseman 3 years from now producing like a guy that you can get for 5? Here's the key - yes you do, if you need someone to produce at that level next year and don't really care about what he does 3 years from now. The Nats aren't exactly that. Now the Rangers...
What I think is that the Nats are hoping the Hamilton deal works out with him going back to the Rangers. If that's the case Texas is far less likely to offer LaRoche the deal he wants and then his options are pretty limited. The Red Sox might give him a deal, but might also try to get a lower price for the extra years.
Of course if the Rangers see Hamilton go, then I think they'll pretty quickly give Adam the deal he wants. He may not be exactly worth it, but it's pretty fair and doesn't kill them for rebuilding when this current run ends. And I think the South Kansas native would take that in a heart beat. He'd be much closer to home and his ranch and killing things and stuff.
Do the Nats blink first offer him that deal now? 3 years 30? I think you can make the case that it's not a bad deal so a lot depends on what they think moving Morse will do, and if they have the OF pieces to survive a failed bid to replace Morse in LF with a FA. If the production can be replaced then there is no need to make a deal that doesn't favor you, even one that's only mildy onerous. Next time!