Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche and left-hander Sean Burnett declined their contractual options for 2013 and became free agents this morning, a source confirmed.
Both players had mutual options on their contracts, LaRoche’s for $10 million and Burnett’s for $3.5 million.
They now become free agents and at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday they’ll be free to talk with any team wishing to acquire their services, though both have indicated they’d be happy to return to the Nationals on new deals.
It appears likely that LaRoche, who is looking for a multi-year deal and has been in discussions with the Nationals for one, will at least be given a $13.3 million qualifying offer that would net the Nationals a compensation draft pick should he turn it down and sign elsewhere.
LaRoche would likely be courted by several teams given his 33-homer, 100-RBI season where he hit .271 and won a Gold Glove for his defense at first base. The Nationals attaching the qualifying offer — and subsequent draft compensation — may help to lessen the field, but in a fairly thin free agent market at his position, there would certainly be other teams interested.
Burnett has already seen the market set for relief with Dodgers right-hander Brandon League signing a three-year, $22.5 million deal with a vesting option. League, of course, is expected to be the Dodgers’ closer, but it’s likely Burnett would be sought after.
Burnett had a 2.38 ERA in the regular season, pitching in high-leverage situations for the Nationals and doing much of it with bone spurs in his left elbow. San Francisco Giants left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, who is also a free agent, did the same work to the tune of a 2.70 ERA and he made $5 million this season at the end of a three-year, $14 million deal.
The Washington Post was the first to report the procedural move of both players declining their side of their mutual options.