Free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche is garnering enough interest that he’s expected to reject the Washington Nationals’ $13.3 million qualifying offer by Friday’s deadline.
LaRoche, 33, is being pursued by the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers, in addition to the Nationals, major-league sources said Wednesday. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, LaRoche is allowed to re-sign with the Nationals even if he rejects the qualifying offer.
The Gold Glove winner and team leader in home runs and RBI appears headed for a multiyear contract — in Washington or elsewhere.
The Rangers’ interest in LaRoche is yet another sign that they are preparing for life without superstar free agent Josh Hamilton. LaRoche, who batted cleanup for Washington most of the season, could replace Hamilton’s left-handed presence in the middle of the lineup. LaRoche’s .853 OPS this season was second only to Hamilton (.930) among current free agents.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, are familiar with LaRoche from his brief tenure with the club in 2009, when he played six games for Boston in between trades with the Pirates and Braves. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Wednesday that LaRoche made a good impression on the organization during his short time there.
“He’s always been a productive hitter,” Cherington said.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is sorting through a number of alternatives for his lineup. Some involve LaRoche. Others don’t. If LaRoche leaves, Mike Morse can move to first base and clear a spot in the outfield for a new center fielder to play between Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. If LaRoche stays, Rizzo could trade Morse.