There hasn’t been much time for the Washington Nationals to shift gears from the drive for a World Series championship to planning for 2013, but as the Nationals begin that process one of their top priorities will be first baseman Adam LaRoche.
The Nationals and LaRoche have a mutual option on his contract for the 2013 season but the sides have begun discussing an multi-year extension and they’re hopeful they can get something accomplished.
“I’d love to (come back),” LaRoche said late Friday night as he digested the end of the Nationals’ charmed 2012 season. “I talked very, very briefly with (general manager Mike Rizzo), exchanged thoughts on what we’re both feeling.
“I think he’d like me to come back and I’ve made it clear all year this where I want to play. On the other hand, I’ve got do to what’s right for my family, too.”
The mutual option on LaRoche’s current contract with the Nationals is for $10 million for the 2013 season, but LaRoche said during the season he’d be more interested in a longer-term commitment — and after he hit 33 home runs with a .271 average and .343 on-base percentage as the Nationals’ cleanup hitter this season, he’d certainly command one on the open market.
The Nationals also know what they have in LaRoche outside of his bat. An exceptional defender at first base, LaRoche has become a clubhouse leader.
“He’s the catalyst in here,” said shortstop Ian Desmond. “(Jayson Werth) does a lot, (Ryan Zimmerman) does a lot… But Rochey’s that steady head. He’s really, really, really respected in here. We would definitely miss him.”
“I think all of us would love to have Adam back,” added Zimmerman.
Rizzo indicated the sides would continue the discussions they’d already begun on a preliminary level and attempt to work something out. They’ll have to make a decision, one way or the other, on LaRoche’s option shortly after the World Series comes to a close and deciding on LaRoche could also key several other of their offseason decisions.
“He’s a guy we really like,” Rizzo said. “He fits in great in the lineup and the club. We’ve been talking and we’re going to continue to talk.”
“If it works out, I’m all in,” LaRoche said. “I love these guys. I love being here. One more season for all these young guys, playing in big games like this is going to make them so much better next year. As good as we were, I think we can be better. I think individual guys can have big years, I think the pitching can be better even though it was phenomenal. It’s just a really good spot for this city right now, for years to come.”
The question for LaRoche, of course, was if he’d be here to be a part of it.
“I hope so,” he said.