Free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche said Monday that he has interest in playing for the Nationals and his representative is expected to meet with the club in the next couple of days.
LaRoche is a player that Nationals have had their eyes on for several months. He is a solid defensive first baseman and is coming off the best season of his career, hitting .261 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs for the D-backs.
“In the next few days we are going to start some conversations with the Nationals,” LaRoche said via phone. “If we come on the same page, I would definitely have interest in playing for them.”
LaRoche believes the Nationals are headed in the right direction after they agreed to terms with outfielder Jayson Werth on a seven-year, $126 million contract on Sunday.
“I think it shows how serious the Nationals are about getting the organization back on track and becoming a contender in the National League East,” LaRoche said. “They are probably tired of watching other teams [spend money and winning]. With the ballpark [Nationals Park] and a little money to spend, they are looking to start over.”
LaRoche has played in the big leagues for seven seasons. He is best known for playing with the Braves, but he has also spent time with the Red Sox and Pirates. During those seven years, LaRoche has a .271 career batting average with 161 home runs and 569 RBIs.
On Thursday, I asked my Twitter followers this question: What is your reaction to Adam Dunn signing with the White Sox? A) Happy, B) Sad. The majority of the followers were sad. Here is what they had to say
@KBar80: I’m sad about Dunn, but business is business. I just hope it improves the Nationals somehow.
@CDublin: I’m sad because the Nationals didn’t get anything for him, but on the bright side maybe they can get younger and more athletic at first base.
@HendoDC: He brought power and an average glove at first base. He didn’t seem to be making an unreasonable demand in asking for four years, $56 million.
@AlanClaffie: Not sad, but not happy about Dunn. He seemed like a good guy to have around with a bat that’s going to be hard to replace.
@NatsEnquirer: I’m happy because I’m holding out hope for Wil Nieves to the starting first baseman for Nats in 2011.
@tbridge: That’s a big hole in the lineup with no clear replacement.
@AlanFG: I will miss the excitement of his power plus he wanted him to be here.
@JackoBeam: I’m irritated and feeling disrespected as a fan base.
@donnysamson: Beyond sad. I agree with all of Ryan Zimmerman’s quotes. Dunn is Ryan Howard, and Dunn liked playing DC. I’m so mad at front office right now.
@CarolBrobeck: Very bummed about this. Dunn was going to set high marks this year.
@Andy Tretler: Despite what most think, the Nationals will be a better team in the long run.
@BrandonAKrueger: The offense goes from decent to absolute garbage. I’m done following this team.
@ferretcomp: Mixed. Sad to see the hitting go, but optimistic about better defense at first base and fewer strikeouts.
@leon_saffelle: I’ll be sad if they use Dunn’s money for Carlos Pena. They must make a big move now to avoid an attendance fallout.
@JScottLewis: Horrified! But I bet you are smiling from ear to ear, you Dunn hater! I hope you get that defense you’ve been wanting!
@WesleyDennis: The Dunn move is not good. I thought he had couple good seasons left to contribute and become a mentor.
@thebrowncoat: “The Plan” was to lose our second best hitter and upset our best hitter. We’ve succeeded.
@ SeanMMcNally: It was a bad decision, bad talent evaluation and a bad omen for Zim in 2013.
@Kim Contreras: I’m sad because Dunn wanted to stay with the Nats. White Sox GM Kenny Williams wanted him from the start and it’s good to be wanted.
@emmi1966: I’m sad because I just don’t see Mike Rizzo’s master plan and that makes this feel like a pointless loss of a valuable slugger.
@catch108stchs: I’m happy because I have an internship with the White Sox organization this summer.
@tylerradecki: Nats just let a great first baseman go and he wanted to be here. Rizzo needs to get to work.
@arrsdrunktweets: Happy. I’ve never seen anyone other than Dunn strike out five times in one game. He wasn’t worth the asking price.
@Reggie: I’m sad, not only because of his home run power, but while watching him, Dunn always made baseball fun.
@waflanagan: I’m sad because this means that Zimmerman is gone in three years.
@natsreportjon: All other options are ghastly, and if you’re going to continue to lose, at least make the fans happy.
@recordsANDradio: Sad to watch the Nats for years. It just got worse.
@rickyh17: Disappointed. Dunn was major part of the offense and replacing him will be difficult. Hopefully, Rizzo has a plan.
@beidenmolinaro: I’m sad because the Nats have no realistic hope of replacing what he meant at the plate, in the clubhouse and to the fans.
@comish4lif: I’m frustrated. A weak team now has yet another hole to fill.
@jypaulos: Not just sad. I’m angry. They could have signed Dunn.
Entering Thursday, the Nationals had 10 players who were eligible for salary arbitration. Five of them — pitchers Sean Burnett, John Lannan and Doug Slaten and outfielders Michael Morse, and Josh Willingham — were tendered contracts, while catcher Jesus Flores and infielder Alberto Gonzalez agreed to terms on new deals. However, catcher Wil Nieves and right-handers Joel Peralta and Chien-Ming Wang became free agents.
Letting Nieves and Wang walk was not a surprise, for the Nationals are loaded with catchers, which made Nieves expendable, and Wang pitched in 24 games in the past three seasons.
However, letting Peralta get away was a surprise. Peralta had the best season of his career, posting a 2.02 ERA in 39 games. He allowed one run in his final 15 innings. General manager Mike Rizzo wasn’t available for comment.
Terms were not disclosed on Gonzalez and Flores. Gonzalez is a valuable player off the bench, but his attitude must change when it comes to playing time. He was often upset when taken out of games.
Flores enters the 2011 season as the No. 3 catcher. It didn’t help that he missed most of the past two years because of a right shoulder injury. The Nationals haven’t ruled out Flores starting next season in the Minor Leagues.
Burnett, Lannan, Morse, Slaten and Willingham will have a hearing sometime in February unless they agree to terms with the club.
Of the five players, Willingham appears to the one person who could be traded before the 2011 season gets underway. Willingham is a free agent after the ’11 season and it is believed the Nationals want young players in return for the right-handed hitting slugger.
A few days after Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki agreed to a seven-year contract extension worth $134 million, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said Thursday he would love to sign a similar extension with the Nationals.
However, Zimmerman, who has three years left on a five-year, $45 million contract, said he wants to make sure the Nationals are winning on a consistent basis before considering such a deal. He was not happy that former teammate Adam Dunn agreed to terms with the White Sox.
“[Signing an extension] is something I would want,” Zimmerman said. “I made it clear that I wouldn’t mind playing in Washington for the rest of my career. Obviously, we need to do something to prove that we are going to try win championships here for the next 10 years. I have no doubt that the front office will do that. It’s one of the reasons I signed the first deal. It’s one reason I would sign a deal like Tulo signed.”
Zimmerman, 26, and Tulowitzki were selected fourth and seventh, respectively, in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft and have become close friends over the years.
“I’m really happy for Tulo,” Zimmerman said. “We have known each other since college. We played on Team USA together, we were drafted the same year and we are pretty close friends. He is recognized as the best shortstop the last two years.
“It’s funny the deal happened. As soon as it happened, people ask me if it’s going to happen to me. We has similar careers, the numbers are almost identical for our careers. If you ask me if I would take a similar deal, I would say 99.9 percent that I would take that deal.”
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said Thursday that he is happy for first baseman Adam Dunn, who agreed to a four-year deal with the White Sox. However, Zimmerman acknowledged that he is concerned about the Nationals. How are they going replace Dunn in the lineup?
It was Dunn who protected Zimmermann in the lineup. Zimmerman will be the first to say that he was able to win the Silver Slugger Award the last two seasons because Dunn was hitting behind him in the lineup.
“I’m very concerned. I think these are supposed to be the years we take a step forward and become more competitive,” Zimmerman said via phone. “We are supposed to be becoming a team that goes out and gets more free agents. To not be able to sign the best free agent that was on your team to begin with is tough. … It’s going to be hard to replace someone [like Dunn] that is in the middle of the order. I hope — just like everyone hopes – that the front office has a plan in place in the next week or two when all this stuff goes on. Hopefully, this will all makes sense.”
While no one questioned Dunn’s ability as a hitter, there were questions about his defense. People in the Nationals’ front office believed he was a defensive liability, but Zimmermann argues that that Dunn was better than what people believed. Zimmerman indicated that Dunn improved at first base by the second half of the 2010 season.
“Adam is the most one of the most underrated players in the game,” Zimmerman said. “Defensively, I think a lot of people think back to when he was in the outfield. He will be the first to tell you that he wasn’t a very good outfielder. He moved to first. I think the second half of last year he started to get better.
“My biggest comparison is Ryan Howard, who I love to death, but Ryan Howard had one more error than Adam Dunn last year, You never hear anyone talk about Ryan Howard’s defense. If you put Adam Dunn in the Phillies lineup, his offense is going to be as good as his. All of a sudden, you have the same player and Ryan Howard makes $25 million a year.”
Zimmerman is aware that the Nationals have a plan in place, trying to replace Dunn with free agents such as Carlos Pena or Adam LaRoche. They could even trade for a first baseman like James Loney. But Zimmerman still wonders if it was worth letting Dunn sign with the White Sox.
“I think myself, including the fans and a lot of other people, are wondering and hoping that the plan is there,” Zimmerman said. “If it’s not there, this is something we are going to look back on and think, ‘Why didn’t we take care of [Dunn]?’ “:
Add the Nationals to the list of teams who have interest in free-agent left-hander Jorge de la Rosa, according to a baseball source.
Last season, de la Rosa missed most of the first half because of a finger injury, but he still went 8-7 with a 4.22 ERA in 20 starts for the Rockies. He also had 113 strikeouts in 121 innings. Even more impressive was that he allowed three runs or fewer in 13 of his last 14 starts.
de la Rosa’s best season was in 2009, when he went 16-9 with a 4.38 ERA for Colorado and that was after starting the season 0-6. He also struck out 193 batters in 185 innings.
de La Rosa is a person that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is familiar with. It was Rizzo, then a scouting director for the D-backs, who signed de la Rosa to his first professional contract in 1998.
Rizzo was not available for comment.
Besides having three stints in the D-Backs’ organization, de la Rosa also spent time with the Red Sox, Brewers, Royals and Monterrey of the Mexican League before finding a home with the Rockies.
If he signs with the Nationals, de la Rosa would likely be near the top of the rotation.
The Nationals are also in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, but a baseball source said the club would not get into a bidding war like it did with first baseman Mark Teixeira after the 2008 season. Washington offered Teixeira the most money, but he decided to sign with the Yankees instead.
During the uniform unveiling on Wednesday, Rizzo told the local media that he was not going to put “all of his eggs” on Cliff Lee. He indicated there were other pitchers he is looking to acquire this offseason.
“We have to take each case individually. We are going to be very realistic on our chances to sign Cliff Lee,” Rizzo said Wednesday. “We are going to speak to him and his representative and see where it takes us. We are certainly not going to put our eggs with the Lee basket because we are going to be one of many people trying to acquire his services.
“But we have other irons in the fire. We have a lot of other decisions to make and a lot of other people to talk to. We are going to make a prudent baseball move via free agency or trade. But we are certainly not going to make a move [just to make a move].”
The Nationals have secured outright waivers on reliever Joe Bisenius, who elected to become a free agent, the team announced Thursday.
The Nationals bragged about his fastball, which was clocked as high as 95 miles per hour. But he wasn’t given much of a chance when he was called up in September.
Bisenius appeared in five games for Washington and allowed five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.
On Thursday, I asked my Twitter followers this question: If the Nats don’t re-sign Adam Dunn, who should play first base for them in 2011? Here is what some of the followers had to say. Some of the answers are hilarious.
@CurlyWashington: Michael Morse. He is a natural infielder who can hit for average and power with enough playing time. It will open right field for Bryce Harper.
@Nationalsreview: Don Mattingly circa 1986. Why? OPS, his glove and his mustache. If they can’t get the 1986 Donnie Baseball, then Russell Branyan with a mustache.
@Jeffrey_Bergin: I would try a one-year incentive-based deal on Derrek Lee for $5 million.
@TheSullyDC: No shot at signing a good first baseman. Get Derek Norris up there as soon as possible.
@nat_meg: Me. I’ll do it — and on the cheap, too.
@22qnf1: Adam LaRoche. He’s a consistent hitter and pretty good defensive first baseman. Plus he won’t’ break the bank either.
@TheSeanWyatt: Bryce Harper. Just because …
@jcj5y: So many variables are in play, but I’d put Morse at 1B, buy a cheap, defense-oriented outfielder and spend on pitching.
@natsreportjon: Not Carlos Pena because he is obviously on the downside of his career and has a negative UZR.
@JackoBeam: I agree with @natsreportjon. But if not Pena, who else? A no-win situation
@CDublin: Carlos Pena because I’m sick of having scrub young players at every position. We don’t have a good young first baseman.
@JFLANland: If we don’t re-sign Dunn, but somehow get Carl Crawford, Josh Willingham or Morse should play first. I would rather have Dunn and Crawford.
@CraigMac: I can. I can also guarantee that I’ll strike out at least 200 times. I’ll accept a three-year deal as well!
@NatsFanInUK: Platoon Morse and Jesus Flores at first base.
@thebrowncoat: Mike Rizzo.
@cassander42: Who cares? Dunn is the best 1st baseman available. If the Nats don’t sign him, they don’t care about winning. Period.
@IBALLZACH: If trading isn’t an option, then probably Willingham or Morse. Free- agent wise, a guy like Lee or Aubrey Huff wouldn’t be too bad.
@autobits: LaRoche: He is a decent hitter and a solid defender. I wouldn’t mind Morse for the same reasons. I don’t want Pena, who is getting old fast.
@szul: Assuming they don’t sign a replacement? Morse. Give the guy more playing time to prove he’s an everyday player.
@gopherballs: Morse. He’s capable of handling the position and there isn’t a reason to sign a “big-name” guy. I also like LaRoche
@NatsEnquirer: Wil Nieves because who needs offense at first base?
@R1cketyCr1cket: Make a trade for Adrian Gonzalez and sign him to a long-term contract. They should consider him in the same class as Mark Teixeira.
@DCyetti: Kevin Mench, because manager Jim Riggleman wants him around.
@ZachMyles: Willingham: He could hit the heck out of the ball, but Hammer doesn’t have range. The outfield should be Roger Bernadina, Nyjer Morgan and Morse.
The Nationals are in need of a third-base coach because Pat Listach is leaving the organization to become the bench coach of the Cubs, according to two baseball sources. An official announcement will be made after the World Series.
Listach, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman were not available for comment. It’s not known who will replace Listach as Washington’s third-base coach. But one source said the new coach will come from outside the organization.
Listach has a history with the Cubs, managing in the Cubs’ Minor League system for four seasons, going 253-221. His best season was in 2008, when he guided Triple-A Iowa to an 83-59 record, and he is still respected by the organization.
In August, Listach made it known that he would like to manage in the big leagues and the Cubs some day. However, he was told in early October that he was not being considered for the Cubs’ managerial position. The job eventually went to Mike Quade.
This offseason, Listach is managing Ponce of the Puerto Rico Winter League.
Nationals third-base coach Pat Listach met for two hours with Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash on Tuesday about Milwaukee’s vacant managerial position.
Listach said the interview went well and the trio talked about everything from the Major League roster to player development.
“It’s was tremendous,” Listach said by phone. “The interview was well planned. They asked the right questions. It was very detailed.”
Listach has a history with the Brewers. He was drafted by the Brewers in the fifth round of the 1988 First-Year Player Draft. He would go on to play five Major League seasons with the Brewers. His best year was in 1992, when he hit .290 with one home run, 47 RBIs, 54 stolen bases and 93 runs scored. He would win American League Rookie of the Year honors for that great season.
Listach has managerial experience. Listach managed in the Cubs’ Minor League system for four seasons, going 253-221. His best season was in 2008, when he guided Triple-A Iowa to an 83-59 record, and he is still respected by the organization.