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  1. As a Nats fan, I want to see articles that proclaim LaRoche an amazing bargain, and Michael Morse a great trade chip. You and other thoughtful posters, though, have written what I know is much more reasonable. We will be really sad to see Morse go, but need to accept that now is the time to wring out every last win, because single wins should be meaningful for teams this good.

    This, of course, is why the Nats might get more for Morse than comps and advanced stats would suggest they should. It is late in the offseason, and a good number of good teams still have a wish list. The Yankees, Orioles and Rays have reason to vie for Morse’s relatively cheap 2 WAR, because they may need them to snag a wild-card spot. LaRoche might have brought a late first rounder, but perhaps Morse can bring 2 wins to the Nats in the form of a person who actually has a position to play on the team (read that left-handed reliever) and a decent prospect.

    Comment by Positively Half St. — January 8, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

  2. In any transaction both parties seek the best deals for themselves. That best deal for Laroche came from the Nats as the clock ran out. Sure, maybe he thinks he should have got better based on his career year in a contract year. But in the end, he got a 40% raise guaranteed for the next 2 years. The Nats made a mistake of paying him based on his performance in a contract year given they had another option in Morse. In 2011 before he went on the DL most Nats fans thought he was a lemon. His career numbers over the last 6 years, which were his peak years, suggest he is worth 9 million a year. Now he gets an average of 11 million in his declining years.

    More important, if salary inflation is poised to rear its ugly head, he may actually be better off with a 2 year deal if he does not decline much and gets to try the FA market again (and accepting any qualifying offer). For some players, going year to year is actually the best strategy if they are healthy since longer term deals are discounted for age and injury concerns.
    If he does not get a qualifying offer, then he does not need to subsidize any deal to the tune of 5 million dollars or more for a teams lost pick.
    He could do just as well in his next deal.

    Comment by pft — January 8, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

  3. I don’t understand why Adam LaRoche had very negative defensive stats early in his career and now has very positive defensive stats at this point in his career. After all his best offensive season is not 2012, it is 2006. And players don’t tend to improve defensively with age. If you hold his defense constant, then, 2012 is not necessarily his career year, and his performance does not look quite as anomalous.

    There are a couple of hypotheses.

    1) Adam LaRoche was a bad first baseman when he came up and has improved his defense even as he’s gotten older.
    2) The Braves gave him very poor defensive instruction and/or positioning, and the Diamondbacks and Nationals figured out how to “fix” his defense.
    3) The discrepancy is a result of statistical noise.

    I find 2) and 3) a lot more likely than 1). Defensive players just aren’t supposed to improve with age.

    (Then again, it’s possible that first basemen are just different. Keith Hernandez came up in 1974, and posted his career high in TotalZone in 1983; John Olerud came up in 1989 and posted his career high in 1998; and though JT Snow generally alternated negative and positive throughout his career, he started out strongly negative and got less so.)

    Still, I’m uncomfortable about assessing LaRoche’s WAR value without better understanding the true value of his defense.

    Comment by Alex Remington — January 8, 2013 @ 11:56 pm

  4. I think the difference between Morse and LaRoche will be worth almost exactly $5m. With both players, I worry there’s a small overpay. But for a contender, at this point in the offseason, a small overpay is okay. Plus the Nats get to trade Morse, likely for reliever that is a small underpay, while shedding the small overpay that Morse’s $7m would have amounted to.

    So the Nats add a small underpay and remove a small overpay, which is win. For a contender, the marginal value of a win is more than a win. I think that moreness of difference is about one small overpay. Net result: Win!

    Comment by philosofool — January 9, 2013 @ 1:29 am

  5. Underlying skill set didn’t change but performance took a huge leap. Sounds like a decent definition of fluke.

    Comment by Vince — January 9, 2013 @ 7:11 am

  6. Morse only has 1 year left so getting LaRoche for 2 alows Rendon to establish himself at 3B and then they move Zimm to 1B – good deal Rizzo. Now can we get a LH reliever please.

    Comment by paul bedford — January 9, 2013 @ 7:21 am

  7. I’ll never understand why people are in a hurry to move Zimmerman to 1st. You’d have to assume his shoulder will never be ok, because otherwise you wouldn’t move a guy with his defensive ability. Signing LaRoche more likely means they are moving Rendon around the diamond a bit this year, because if they don’t, he’s only going to be a trade chip for the next two years. He’d have more value if he established he could play 2nd, 1st, and the OF in any case. If you are concerned about Zimmerman’s health, you have to be even more concerned about how Rendon can’t stay healthy.

    Comment by mockcarr — January 9, 2013 @ 7:57 am

  8. Unless the Nats have targeted a few young lefties, I don’t see why they wouldn’t have just paid for a FA. I would rather they got useful prospect(s) back in a deal with more upside than a loogy. But Morse might not have any more value than Willingham did two years ago.

    Comment by mockcarr — January 9, 2013 @ 8:05 am

  9. You’re absolutely right. Defense is the the biggest question in determining what to expect from Adam LaRoche.

    For what it’s worth, after two years of close observation, I can confirm that UZR is correct in claiming LaRoche is an above average defensive 1B. He’s good at fielding the ball, but he’s excellent at receiving the ball, which the the single most important skill for a Nationals’ 1B. Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman are very erratic throwers (they have 55 throwing errors together since 2010). I think this is largely why the Nats FO has preferred LaRoche over Morse.

    Since we can assume LaRoche will maintain a similar level of defense in 2013, it’s a very reasonable contract for the Nats.

    If you look at LaRoche over the last 5 years, he’s sported a .348 wOBA. 2011 is essentially a write-off season, since he was batting the entire time with a torn labrum, which sapped all his strength when swinging. If you look at the average of his healthy seasons (2008-2010 and 2012), he’s a .355 wOBA hitter.

    Combine that with his above average defense (~+5 UZR), and LaRoche is about a 2.5-3.5 WAR player going forward.

    Comment by Will — January 9, 2013 @ 9:15 am

  10. Yeah, I don’t really understand it myself. Howell or Gonzalez could have been had for $2.85 or $2.25m, respectively for only one year of commitment. That’s really nothing, and it would have left Rizzo to shop around for the best possible package for Morse, instead of the best possible package involving a lefty specialist.

    With that said, if Rizzo can get someone like Jake McGee, I’ll be more than happy.

    Comment by Will — January 9, 2013 @ 9:23 am

  11. LaRoche wasn’t medicated until 2006 for ADHD. As a Braves fan that watched him play, this was definitely a deterrent to his defense. Could be a contribution reason to your #1 above.

    Comment by FYFs LOBs — January 9, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

  12. Money-wise, the Nats probably did the right thing here. They get a very good defensive 1st baseman, a left-handed bat with power, and control for two/three years after which they have no commitment towards any 1st baseman. 1st basemen being one of the easiest positions to fill, this works out well. Morse might not fetch as much as some think given the recent importance being placed on years of control. If the Nats can get a semi-decent pitching prospect in return, they can save face, especially with Alex Meyer now gone. Overall, another good move by Rizzo and the Nats.

    Comment by Ben — January 9, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

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