As part of this whole LaRoche saga, one of the underlying themes I'm picking up from some fans is "It doesn't matter if they sign LaRoche. Morse is fine for next year and they need the infield space for Anthony Rendon when he comes up later this year". The ascension of Rendon is taken as fait accompli. He will come up, possibly early this year, likely later this year, maaaybe next year at the latest. He will be good. Bryce Harper was the Nats last hitting star and he's made the transition. So will Anthony Rendon.
Thing is Anthony Rendon is not Bryce Harper.
Bryce was not just a #1 draft pick, but a consensus, "Bowden would have picked him" obvious choice. In the majors at 19. On the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school. A player with all the tools who's compared to Hall of Famers. A player that, even though he didn't hit great last year, was a big plus for the Nats because what he did on defense at a tough position (based pretty much on pure athleticism) and what he did on the basepaths. Bryce Harper is a generational talent, meaning we see his like once every 20 years or so.
Anthony Rendon also arguably could have been a #1 draft pick, even though he went later because of injury concern. Possibly the best college hitter as a true freshman at 19. A fine fielder to go along with his great hitting, but not a threat on the basepaths. If Rendon doesn't hit well, his value is going to take a hit, especially if he's playing a corner IF position. Anthony Rendon is a talent you don't see every year but you do see.
When I look at Anthony Rendon I don't see Bryce Harper. I see Pat Burrell with a glove. (which isn't bad - Pat Burrell had a fine career and would get a lot more praise if he wasn't a DH disguised as an OF most of his career)
Yes yes Rendon rocked the Arizona Fall League in 2012. But that doesn't mean he'll be rocking the majors in 2013 or even 2014. Take a look at the AFL leaders in 2010. Which of those guys have had an impressive season in the majors so far heading into 2013? Answer : Maybe Brandon Belt last year. Ackley had a good half-season in 2011 but struggled mightily last year. Norris never turned the corner at the plate last year. Kipnis looks on the verge with a nice finish to 2011 but was still only ok last year. Only Belt has had a full season of above average hitting and it wasn't GREAT.
Now if you want to argue the Nats need to clear space for Rendon OR Moore
OR Skole... well anytime you add more names to the argument it gets
stronger. But like Rendon isn't Bryce, those guys aren't Rendon. Chances are smaller that they are impact players at the majors.
And let's not forget that Rendon was thought of as an injury risk when he was drafted then he proceeded to get injured nearly immediately to start the season.
I'm not saying that Rendon couldn't be great as soon as the end of this year, but that thinking, or even thinking he'll be starting for the Nats next year, shouldn't be part of any serious plan. The chances are better that he won't be a serious hitter in the majors until a couple years from now, even if he stays healthy which is a big if, and for a team that wants to WIN NOW, you can't give guys 2-3 years to find themselves in the majors and you can't have a hole at first base. It's very likely that they will need to sign a first baseman for 2014. Be it LaRoche on a deal starting this year, or Morse coming back on a new one, or someone else.