The 2013 MLB offseason is just two weeks old and already the Nationals have found themselves involved in a variety of rumors.
First it was interest in free agents Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury, the top dogs on this winter's market. Then it was Denard Span on the trading block just one year after coming over in a deal with Minnesota. And now, thanks to Fox Sports, a rumor has surfaced Adam LaRoche could be dealt.
Jon Morosi adds to the idea that LaRoche could interest American League teams as a first baseman and designated hitter. This is after a year when he took a significant step back from 2012.
LaRoche, who turned 34 last week, batted just .237 this season after winning a Silver Slugger the year before. In 2012 he posted career highs in home runs with 33 and RBI with 100. This year he had 20 homers and just 62 RBI.
LaRoche was one year older, but also struggled to keep on weight, thus his lack of power. LaRoche, in fact, saw his slugging percentage drop over .100 points, from .510 to .403.
Truthfully, LaRoche may not have much value on the trade market given his disappointing year. He's on a one year deal with an option for 2015, but is scheduled to make $12 million this season.
Add into the equation that the Nats have no clear replacement for LaRoche, and it is very unlikely he'll be shipped out. Tyler Moore isn't going to be handed a starting job after the season he had and Matt Skole is nowhere near ready either.
The Nats could technically trade for a first baseman, but how many would be better than LaRoche? He is still an above average defender at first, even if he didn't quite his Gold Glove season from the year before.
Free agency would be the other option, but that requires money and the expectation they can find a better replacement. This year's class happens to be lacking at first base, both in stars and in depth.
Here are the top five options according to HardballTalk.com:
1. Mike Napoli - Red Sox - 32 years old
2. Kendrys Morales - Mariners - 30
3. Corey Hart - Brewers - 32
4. James Loney - Rays - 29
5. Kevin Youkilis - Yankees - 35
That's not a great group. Loney might be a good fit, but he won't be signing for the one-year, $2 million deal he had this season in Tampa. He's likely to get several years and could haul an annual salary close to $10 million.
Would the Nats prefer to get more out of their first baseman in 2013? Sure, but this may not be the year to find an upgrade. They entered LaRoche's deal looking a two year window and all indications point to them riding it out for better or worse.