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Market for LaRoche is thinning

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Market for LaRoche is thinning

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The number of teams interested in Adam LaRoche dropped by one this morning when the Red Sox signed Mike Napoli, but the Nationals still face some competition for the veteran first baseman.

The Red Sox were thought all along as one of the likeliest destinations for LaRoche if he didn't return to Washington. But Boston this morning inked Napoli to a three-year, $39 million contract and no longer has a need for LaRoche.

That thins the ranks of clubs in the mix for the 33-year-old and certainly puts the Nationals in a more advantageous position, though it doesn't guarantee his return.

The Nats' chief competition at this point could be the Rangers, who now need to fill the void created by Napoli's departure. Texas does have 27-year-old Mitch Moreland at the position but could feel pressure to upgrade offensively, especially if center fielder Josh Hamilton (also a free agent) winds up elsewhere.

Other teams who have been linked to LaRoche include the Orioles and Mariners, though Baltimore doesn't appear willing to offer the three-year deal LaRoche seeks and Seattle can't offer the same opportunity to contend for a World Series right now that the Nationals and Rangers can claim.

To date, the Nationals haven't budged from their two-year offer. General manager Mike Rizzo met with LaRoche in person over the weekend at manager Davey Johnson's charity golf event in Orlando and explained the club's position, wanting to maintain some roster flexibility after 2014.

The Napoli signing in Boston gives the Nationals some added leverage in dealing with LaRoche. So does the fact they already have Michael Morse available to play first base if they don't re-sign LaRoche.

Morse would need to be traded if LaRoche returns.

"It's kind of up in the air who's going to be at first," LaRoche said over the weekend at the golf event. "It's between me and Mikey. Mike's obviously a great friend of mine. However it works out, it does."

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Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history. 

Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him. 

During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.  

In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons. 

Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store

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Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract

On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop. 

It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series. 

Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster. 

Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.

The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda. 

There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others