Earlier today the Nationals finally were able to ink Adam LaRoche to a 2 year/$15 million deal with a mutual option for a 3rd priced at $10 million ($1 million buyout), thus ending a long offseason of first base movement. (H/T @washingnats)
At the end of the 2010 season the Nationals had their plan and they were sticking to it, they wanted to get better defensively and more athletic. Dunn and Willingham were both sent away, one by free agency and the other by trade, and the emphasis was place on defense. Players were signed (Werth, Ankiel, etc.) that would make an impact in the field, as well as in the clubhouse and at the plate. But throughout the whole process, there was still a massive hole where there used to be a massive Donkey; first base.
We talked with Adam Dunn - he signed with the White Sox
We kicked the tires on Paul Konerko - he re-signed with the White Sox
We looked Carlos Pena - he signed with the Cubs
We inquired about Derrek Lee - he signed with The District's Canada (The Orioles)
We targeted Adam LaRoche - we got him
Starting on March 31st, 2011 we are going to have one of the best starting infield lineup in baseball, at least defensively. Last year LaRoche had a 4.8 UZR/150 (3rd highest among MLB first-basemen), Espinosa's was 13.3, Desmond's was a -9.4 (though his maturity should improve this year), and Zimmerman's was 17.8. I have already predicted in a previous post that Desmond will improve by 15 errors, add that to the rest of the infield and the Nats are going to have a vacuum of an infield; and this is without taking into account Werth, Morgan, and Bernadina in the OF.
The Nats are getting a player who has put up solid and predictable numbers in the past few years. Here are just a few stats to whet your appetite.
162 Game Averages:
.271 Batting Average
.339 On-Base Percentage
.488 Slugging Percentage
11.6 WAR (Fangraphs)
7.6 WAR (Baseball Reference)
.995% Fielding Percentage
The Nats may not have gotten their first choice, but I believe that they have a great player here. The stats show that he has the potential to be an average to above-average offensive player, while providing quality defense. I like the way the defense and offense is shaping up for 2011, all we have to do now is get some serviceable starting pitching...