The Adam LaRoche Conundrum

What will the Nationals Do With LaRoche?

In 2012, Adam LaRoche was arguably one the best first baseman in all of baseball, hitting .271 with 31 HRs and 100 RBIs. LaRoche took home both the NL Silver Slugger and the NL Golden Glove Award for first basemen. Adam LaRoche went into free agency last year looking for a three year, $39 million deal, which was understandable for a player coming off of a career year. After no team seemed willing to give the then 33 year old that type of contract, the Nationals decided to resign LaRoche to a 2 year, $27 million deal, with a $15 million for 2015. People thought that this was a great deal for the Nationals; LaRoche looked like he was a top first baseman who definitely deserved more than two years. The Nationals were excited for what they were going to see from LaRoche.

2013 was not a good year for Adam LaRoche. All of his numbers from 2012 dropped dramatically in 2013. His average fell almost 40 points, he hit 10 fewer homer runs, and his RBIs numbers dropped dramatically. LaRoche struggles might have been because he lost a lot of weight due to a change in ADHD medication. Even if that were true, LaRoche was still pretty bad offensively. It got so bad that the Nationals ended up platooning LaRoche with fellow first baseman Tyler Moore when the Nationals were trying to make a playoff push.  Now, before the offseason gets into full swing, the Nationals are wondering what to do with Adam LaRoche. Earlier today, Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reported that LaRoche is drawing interest from AL teams to be their 1B/DH.  Should the Nationals trade LaRoche, or keep him as their first baseman for the remainder of his contract?

The Nationals should hold on to LaRoche, only because there are no better options available. The best option in organization would be Tyler Moore. Moore is coming off an atrocious year, where he was one of the least valuable players, according to WAR. Moore started to show some signs of improvement after coming up from AAA, but not enough to put our full faith in him. Teams usually don’t give the starting job to a player who had the type of year that Moore did. Moore is definitely not the right choice for starting first base next year.

There aren’t much better options in free agency or on the trading block. The best options are World Series champion Mike Napoli, and former Brave Brian McCann. While McCann has never played first, it couldn’t be that hard to learn (ie. Adam Dunn). That would also give the Nationals a back up catcher. McCann could play catcher every third day, giving Ramos a day off. Then, the Nationals could carry three catchers without a problem. While that may sound like a good idea, McCann would cost the Nationals a lot of money and a draft pick, something that Mike Rizzo said he didn’t want to do.

There is also the option of moving third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to first base and putting Anthony Redon back to his natural position of third. While some people may think that this might be good for Zimmerman because of his numerous shoulder problems, it would diminish Ryan Zimmerman’s offensive numbers. Last season, Ryan Zimmerman batted .275 and hit 27 home runs. Those numbers are very good for a third baseman. However, if the Nationals were to move Zimmerman to first, those numbers would be middle of the pack/ below average for a first baseman. A lot of Zimmerman’s value comes from the position that he plays. Moving him to first is not a good option.

So while LaRoche may not be a great option for the Nationals, he is really the only option that the Nationals really do have. Unless the Nationals are able to find a trade where they get significant value for a 34 year first baseman who is coming off one his worst seasons, look for LaRoche to be manning first next season.

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