NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There wasn't much to update on the Washington Nationals' negotiations with Adam LaRoche as baseball's winter meetings got under way in earnest Monday. But, even indirectly, they were affected and pushed to the forefront of the conversation at Gaylord Opryland Hotel.
Shortly before noon, free agent first baseman/catcher Mike Napoli agreed to terms on a three-year, $39 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. With that, a team interested in LaRoche disappeared, and the Nationals' leverage became stronger.
"There's nothing new to report on the LaRoche situation," general manager Mike Rizzo said after a day spent laying groundwork and evaluating the landscape with his scouts and front office members.
"If [Napoli's signing changed] anything, it's one destination that [LaRoche] won't be playing at," Rizzo added.
The Nationals, who have been in amicable but slow negotiations with LaRoche since before the end of the season, still have competition for the free agent first baseman.
The Baltimore Orioles are interested, one source said, as are the Seattle Mariners.
But the Nationals remain the best fit when it comes to fulfilling what LaRoche has said is his main goal: to have a chance to win a World Series.
The Rangers, Napoli's former club, were thought to have interest as well, but multiple reports refuted that idea.
The hang-up remains that LaRoche, 33 and coming off a Silver Slugger season, would like a three-year deal. Washington is holding at two years. The money, which presumably could come in around $12 million per year, has yet to be an issue because the years haven't been resolved.
Whether any of the remaining clubs, who are in less-favorable positions as contenders, would go three years has yet to be answered.
That leaves the Nationals somewhat in limbo. Rizzo said the team wouldn't be disinclined to move a player such as Michael Morse, who has drawn significant interest and could be used to net a starting pitcher, without LaRoche in the fold.
And they'd be comfortable, if necessary, with Tyler Moore at first base every day.
But having a resolution with LaRoche would give the rest of the Nationals' plans more clarity.
"I don't think there's any urgency to set a deadline or a specific timeline we need to get it done," Rizzo said. "Needless to say, this decision is going to impact some of the other decisions we make.
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