Amidst the three-game sweep suffered at the hands of the Atlanta Braves and the news that second baseman Danny Espinosa will undergo an MRI on his ailing shoulder, a couple of interesting quotes seem to have slipped through the cracks.
“I was unhappy to hear that he could test the free-agent market,” Johnson said. “We need him back more than we need me back.”
For those who may be unaware, LaRoche, who was originally signed to a two-year contract in January 2011, is eligible to become a free agent after this season. That is, of course, provided he or the Nationals opt not to exercise the $10 million mutual option in place for 2013.
“[His] Offense has been outstanding. He’s carried us a lot, had a lot of big hits for us,” Johnson said. “But the defense is what I really love. His defensive prowess has really gotten us one of the best defensive infields in the league, by far.”
In 139 games this year, LaRoche has posted a .269/.340/.503 line with 29 doubles, 30 home runs and 94 RBIs. He has also posted a career-high 3.2 WAR, placing him at the head of all National League first basemen. As for his defense, he has made only seven errors this year and his .994 fielding percentage is second only to Carlos Lee in the NL.
The good news is that LaRoche appears to be open to the prospect of playing first base for the Nationals next year and beyond.
Last week, LaRoche told Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post that he would “love to stay” in D.C.
“I’m kind of getting tired of bouncing around,” LaRoche said. “My kids enjoy it here. It might be nice to stay for a few more years. I have no idea what their long-term plans are. But I’d like to stick around.”
But as promising as that sounds, it may take a new multi-year contract to get him to commit.
“I’m not saying I would pick [the option] up or turn it down,” LaRoche said. “All I’m saying is I would like to stay for more than one year if possible.”
The Nationals will have five days after the conclusion of the 2012 World Series with which to work with LaRoche on his option – or a new contract – exclusively before he becomes eligible for free agency.