Adam LaRoche Makes It a Very Happy New Year
It is truly a Happy New Year for Washington Nationals fans now that Adam LaRoche has signed. Toot the horns, lift your voice in song, the other shoe has finally fallen. It could not happen at a better moment in time. Given the tragedy of Robert Griffin, III’s injury and the demise of the Redskins, Washington sports fans need some good news.
The Nationals have been waiting on Adam LaRoche with the patience of Job. Great defense and a dependable power bat in the middle of the order attracted many other teams to LaRoche during this off-season. But slowly they came to agree with GM Mike Rizzo that two years was as long as you can afford to pay someone who will be 33 to start the season. Washington gave LaRoche a third-year option for $2 million, but kept the overall price where it was always rumored to be–$24 million.
With LaRoche aboard the Washington Nationals will likely be rated one of the two best teams in the National League. The 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers have amassed a $235 million payroll that makes them the odds-on favorite. The figure is more than twice the $110 million the Lerner family will spend on the Nationals. Yet, even after spending $25 million per year for Zach Greinke, LA will still have a tough time matching up with the Nationals young pitching staff.
The biggest loose end left to be tied off by Mike Rizzo for 2013 is Michael Morse, the 30 year old slugger who has one year left on his contract with Washington at $6.5 million. His low price and versatility make him a highly valued trade commodity and Rizzo can try to address two issues as he entertains offers for one of the best players currently on the market.
The Nationals robbed their fine minor league organization to acquire center fielder Denard Span–losing top pitching prospect Alex Myers. And in 2012 they traded four of their best minor leaguers for Gio Gonzalezs. So one goal has to be to replenish overall organizational depth. Some have speculated that the left-handed reliever the Nationals have sought during the off-season is another need that Morse could be used to fill. Washington did sign lefty relievers Zach Duke and Billy Bray and they could give the Nationals enough that they may defer for now.
IF, the Nationals want a left-handed reliever, the best trade they could make would be with the Texas Rangers who lost Josh Hamilton and have not landed a single slugger to replace him. Morse would be a good fit. Texas has a deep bullpen and might be convinced to part with an extremely talented young lefty, Robby Ross. Ross, only 23, pitched well–2.22 ERA–out of the Texas pen for most of 2012. Ross was a starter in the minors and a good one, but like Atlanta ace, Kris Medlin, he is only 5′-10″ and considered by the baseball establishment to be too short to withstand the rigors of throwing 100 pitches every fifth day.
The best fit may be with the Tampa Bay Rays who have the deepest minor league organization in the game. They got four young players for James Shields and one of them, Wil Myers, will be in the Tampa outfield either to start the season or shortly thereafter. He should star for the Rays for years to come. Michael Morse could allow Tampa to keep Myers at Triple-A to save money and could then slide Morse to DH or first base when Myers is ready in May.
Tampa also added two young pitchers in the trade and if there is anywhere that the Nationals can look to replace Alex Myer, it is in Tampa. One intriguing pitcher in the Tampa organization is Jesse Hahn who pitched in college at Virginia Tech and had a promising career ahead of him until Tommy John surgery derailed him in 2011. He came back last season and looked good. He is old enough to jump up the charts quickly for the Nationals and is something of a local product. Then there are players like Jake Hager, a shortstop who could help at a position where the Nationals are thin in the minors and Blake Snell a lefty who at 19 has considerable upside.
The truth is that the Nationals can hardly go wrong at this point. Morse will bring back something of value and the Nationals don’t need much. By the time Morse is traded, it will be time for pitchers and catchers to report for Spring Training. This year it may come on a day so close to my heart–Valentines Day. It’s hardly a month hence that spring will be in the Florida air. Be still my heart, I am not as young as I used to be.