VIERA, Fla. — Adam LaRoche made it clear before the Nationals’ 2012 season ended that he didn’t see himself playing with any team in 2013 other than the Washington Nationals. It may have taken longer than he thought for that to become a surety, but LaRoche arrived Nationals camp on Friday happy that he didn’t have to alter that vision.
LaRoche, who agreed to a two-year, $24 million deal with a mutual option for 2015 in January, said when he signed his deal that the potential for this Nationals team was one of the overriding factors in his desire to be here. And after the way the 2012 season ended, he said Friday, his expectations for 2013 are certainly higher.
“It’ll be disappointing if we were to repeat last year, which was a really good year,” LaRoche said. “If we came out and made the playoffs and got beat out early or whatever it was, I don’t think everybody now will look at that as a successful year. And we did last year. We’re turning the corner.
“I haven’t been here through the bad years but I know guys that have been around here, and it was an incredibly successful year last year and nobody, I don’t think, saw it coming. I think guys thought we had a chance. We hung in there and thought we were pretty good. But this year will be different. And I think that’s what comes along with winning. You get a taste of it. It’s like my first few years in Atlanta. It was nothing to make the playoffs. We’d celebrate, but the goal was the World Series. And that’s where I see this team going.”
LaRoche also discussed the free agency process again on Friday, expanding on the draft pick compensation rules that likely hindered his ability to attract as much interest as a player of his caliber,coming off a career season, would’ve if a first-round pick hadn’t been attached to signing him.
Asked how often his agent would tell him that teams were saying they’d have been interested had they not had to surrender a pick, LaRoche said “every week.” “It got frustrating,” he added.
“I think (something) needs to be done,” LaRoche said. “And not just for me, I think there were four or five of us who were really affected this year. And in the future, I think you’re going to have that scenario every year. So I think they’re going to have to do something about it.
“When it comes down to it, with a lot of guys (who turned down a qualifying offer and had a draft pick attached to signing them), if you would have actually had a less-productive year, it would have been easier to get a longer-term deal or have more competition in negotiations. So, again, it could have been really bad. I don’t know how it ended up for anybody, obviously I got to where I wanted to go. I wanted to be back here and we worked it out, but the draft pick did not help things.”
It’s clear that the system definitely hurt some free agents. LaRoche, for one, had his options limited. Michael Bourn did not sign until this past week and surrendering a pick ultimately kept him out of the New York Mets organization. Kyle Lohse is still on the market. Rafael Soriano wound up with the Nationals, the team with the lowest pick in the first round of the draft, after a prolonged period in free agency. For the marquee guys like Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton, it didn’t appear to hurt their options, but that wasn’t the case for others.
LaRoche said in talking with the Major League Baseball Players’ Union, he got the sense that they did not envision the system working out this way when they agreed to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in the winter of 2011.
“I think (examples like Bourn and Lohse) just show how important it is to get rid of that rule,” LaRoche said. “I don’t know if that was in the agreement that they overlooked and didn’t realize that it could backfire the way it did, or if they were just willing to take that risk. But in talking to the union a little bit, I think they would love to take that back.”