After a strong season that saw the Washington Nationals win 98 games and make the playoffs as a franchise for the first time since 1981 (in Montreal, of course), the team is looking to bring back first baseman Adam LaRoche on what may be a long-term contract. While the organization already held a mutual contract option for the 2013 season worth $10 million, it appears they were suitably impressed by the slugger’s production this year and would like to keep him in the fold for a longer time frame.
LaRoche, who will turn 33 before Opening Day in 2013, is coming off a nice season in which he led all qualifying players on the team in home runs (33), runs batted in (100), and OPS (.853). Per FanGraphs data, the first baseman contributed nearly 3.8 WAR to the Nationals as well, a total that made him the fifth most valuable position player on the roster.
Even when compared to other first basemen — usually the premium power position on the diamond — around the league, LaRoche’s season stacks up nicely. The average first baseman posted a .331 wOBA and 107 wRC+ in 2012, numbers LaRoche topped handily (.361, 127). These numbers are hardly the norm for his career as a whole, however; the former 29th round draft pick has a .350 wOBA, 112 wRC+, and has only been worth 13.2 WAR overall, nearly a third of which came in 2012 alone. Add in the fact that this was a down year for first basemen production wise, and normally a player with LaRoche’s offensive skill set would actually be a liability at the position.
Given his age — he isn’t at an age where a jump in production is likely — and performance history, the Nationals may want to reconsider this long-term contract and see about simply exercising that $10 million one-year option instead. LaRoche is a fine short-term solution for a team without a better option at first, but viewing him as anything more than that is risky.