It took longer than he really hoped, but in the end Adam LaRoche ended up where he wanted to be all along: at first base for the Washington Nationals. He signed a two-year contract with a mutual option for a third year Tuesday and is ready to help the club build on its 98-win season in 2012.
"I like seeing the change in that city from when I played against the Nationals for years with zero excitement, not a lot of hope, not a ton of success in that club," LaRoche said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "And now to see the transformation of that whole city, I think it's only going to get better."
LaRoche admitted that the new collective bargaining agreement rules -- he was given a qualifying offer by the Nats that would have forced other teams to give up a draft pick to sign him -- limited his suitors. That was a disappointment and has hurt other top free agents such as outfielder Michael Bourn.
There is also the awkward notion that LaRoche's fortune spells the end for teammate Michael Morse in Washington. A fan favorite and one of the team's best hitters, Morse doesn't have a spot to play with LaRoche back and the outfield full. Maybe the Nats could keep him as a reserve and get him at-bats if others get injured.
"I don't think you're going to see Mikey on the bench. He's a guy that can hit in the middle of about any lineup in the big leagues," LaRoche said. "So I don't know what's going to happen there. Selfishly I would love to have him on our team and in that lineup."
LaRoche said the hang-up in recent days with the Nats resolved not around a third year but in the language about buyout money for a mutual option and a no-trade clause. Teammate Jayson Werth has one, but the organization is unwilling to hand them out anymore, so LaRoche had to go without one.
"On my end, I don't want to be traded. I want to be there," LaRoche said. "The direction that the team is going in is phenomenal. I think they're going to be really solid for a long time, so I don't want to get traded."
- Brian McNally