The Nationals completed one of their primary offseason goals Tuesday when they signed first baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal with a mutual option for the 2015 season. All told, LaRoche will make $24 million in guaranteed money and the Nationals will have the left-handed slugging first baseman under contract until at least Nov. 2014.
Here are some of the leftovers from my conversation with LaRoche this afternoon, shortly after he’d passed his physical:
On his initial reaction to getting the deal done: “It’s kind of nice. You know me, I wasn’t stressing it a whole lot, but I’m glad it’s with Washington and not somebody else. I was prepared to leave if I had to but I was really trying to do everything I could to get back there so, I’m glad it worked out.
On what the breaking point was that made him decide to take the Nationals’ offer: “Gosh, I don’t know. It was pretty much not moving for a couple months as you guys wrote so at that point, it got to a point at one time where I really thought ‘OK, I probably am not going back to Washington.’ We were in talks with some other teams and things were looking promising and Washington wasn’t budging. So, anyway, in the long run it worked out and we’ve still got plenty of time here before spring training.
On if Davey Johnson’s well-publicized recruiting push had an effect on him: “His recruiting push? Not a whole lot, although I really did appreciate it and loved all the comments. He’s obviously sending me text messages along the way to come work on the ranch, come basically be my servant out here. But no, that wasn’t as much (of a factor) as just playing for him last year. How much I enjoyed being on his team and seeing him in that spot everyday. He’s just a great manager, he’s fun to play for and he’s got a knack for kind of bringing out the bright side in people. You’ve got to love that.”
On the way 2012 ended and the way the team is shaping up for 2013: “You know, I’m over it. I’m over last year. That may change when we show up to spring training and put a uniform on again. You probably start to remember a little bit, the end of last season. But, again, it is what it is. It was a great year. Period. I don’t think anybody would’ve said that a week or two after the season, I think guys were still pretty pissed, but you look back and, to be able to turn that club around and get into the playoffs, it was a great year that ended on a bad note. That’s all it was.
“I don’t think you’re going to see any kind of negative response this spring training when you talk about last year. It’ll be brought up, it ended rough, whatever. We’ve got to get back in there. But I think the strides that this team and individuals took, I think everybody looks at it as a positive — an awesome little platform to start on and start a new reputation for the Nationals. We come in as the target in the NL East and with the team they’re putting together, really a target in baseball in general so that’s a good spot to be in.”
On how his son, Drake, a frequent clubhouse fixture, feels about the new deal: “He’s fired up. It was pretty easy. Teams would be mentioned throughout the winter and I’d run it by the kids and it was always ‘No, no, no. We want to go back to Washington.’ They love it there, especially Drake. That was his first choice. I had Drake and (Nationals GM Mike) Rizzo in that thing together I think. They were both pushing pretty hard.
On his feelings on if his signing then triggers a trade of Michael Morse: “Well if that is what happens, if they end up moving him, I hate that it took this long into the offseason for Mikey to know where he’s going. And it’s unfortunate because it’s just one of those weird situations where we’d be losing one of our best guys, one of our best hitters, a guy that everybody enjoys being around. He was a big part of the life in that clubhouse so, I don’t know.
“I don’t think there’s anybody on the team who wants to see him go. We would all love to find a way to keep him and have that bat in the lineup. That’s all out of our jurisdiction. Leave it to the big boys on what they want to do. Ideally we’d have both of us back but from the sounds of it, it’s not possible so I don’t know.”