Friday afternoon the Baltimore Sun reported that Derrek Lee had signed a 1-year contract with the Orioles. That leaves the Nats down to one legitimate option at first base; Adam LaRoche. We posted a generic overview of several 1B options about a month ago, and here is what we wrote about LaRoche.
Choices, Choices, Choices 12.6.10
"LaRoche had probably the 2nd best year at the plate of his 7 year career in 2010. But even still it seems as though he is give you similar numbers each year you put him out there. He is going to hit .260-.280, hit 22-27 bombs, drive in 80-90 runs, while providing quality defense at 1st base. What Nats fans should be most aware of is his UZR/150 score, 4.8 for 2010. What that means is that he saved his team 4.8 more runs, per 150 games, than the average first baseman."
Now, the "choices" has become "choice". LaRoche is easily the best option out there so lets delve a bit more into his statistics.
162-game offensive averages - .271 AVG. .827 OPS. 26 HR. 93 RBI.
Past 3 years of WAR - 1.7 in 2008. 2.6 in 2009. 2.1 in 2010.
Past 3 years of UZR - -4.8 in 2008. 0.2 in 2009. 5.2 in 2010.
Past 3 years of Fielding % - .993 in 2008. .999 in 2009. .991 in 2010.
Owner of a lifetime WAR of 11.6 LaRoche provides steady defense and consistent offense at a position that values moonshots and generates strikeouts. It should be noted that in the top 10 most comparable players is former-MVP Justin Morneau and Adrian Gonzalez, who just went to Boston for 4 prospects (2 top prospects).
LaRoche is a well-above average defender whose only rough years have come in a Pirates uniform, not too surprising. If the Nats were to finally ink LaRoche we would have an athletic infield that consists of Zimmerman at 3B, Desmond at SS, Espinosa at 2B, and LaRoche at 1B. That would make life for our pitchers (especially the sinkerballers) much better. Gone would be the days of infielders too scared to make the throw in case the first baseman couldn't pick it.
Back in the original post we called for LaRoche over all others, that long-shot has now turned into a near sure-thing; its now only a matter of years and dollars. Our guess? The LaRoche camp wants 3 years/$21 million, Rizzo doesn't want to go to 3 years, but wants a 2 year/$15 million deal.
In addition to all the benefits included in signing LaRoche and creating a defense-first approach for our young infield/pitching staff, the Nats would also be getting a smart ballplayer. We wouldn't have to worry about missed signs, bad baserunning, or misplays in the field. Coming from a family of baseball players (Father and Brother both big leaguers), he would bring a veteran presence and high baseball IQ into the clubhouse, something that is desperately needed to lead our newcomers.
The Nats may not have gotten their first choice (Pena), and the fans certainly did not get their first choice (Dunn), but I believe that they still have the chance to make the right choice. It seems to be a matter of time until we see the tweets start pouring in, announcing a deal with LaRoche. But this is baseball, and anything can happen.