Talkin Sox with Dan

Where baseball fans gather for commonsensical, opinionated Red Sox banter.

LaRoche Signs, Napoli still in Limbo

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Adam LaRoche is the latest free agent to fall victim of the affliction known as the qualifying offer. Players like LaRoche and Rafael Soriano have seen their free agent stock dip this offseason as teams shy away from relenquishing a first or second round pick, something they would have to give up if they chose to sign a player who received a qualifying offer from their former club. It kept the slick fielding first baseman from getting the three-year offer that he coveted.

LaRoche inked a two-year deal worth $24MM on Tuesday with the Nationals. The 33-year old first baseman enjoyed a career year in 2012 but found it impossible to squeeze a three-year deal out of a team, mostly due to the fact that a club, like the Red Sox, would have been giving up a valuable draft pick–in the neighborhood of 44 overall for the Sox. LaRoche’s return to the Nats is interesting in and of itself, but the ripple effect of the signing may be even more intriguing because it tells us a few things about where the Red Sox stand in relation to Mike Napoli and their increasingly glaring hole at first base.

—- I never thought Adam LaRoche was a real option for the Red Sox once the Nationals made him a qualifying offer. It was obvious that GM Ben Cherington and the Red Sox were targeting players like Shane Victorino and Ryan Dempster who were willing to sign relatively short term deals and did not force the team to give up a second round pick–and the money that comes with it. The report that came out a couple of weeks ago concerning the Red Sox speaking with LaRoche may have been true. But let’s be real. It was largely posturing on the part of the Sox. LaRoche was relevant enough of an option to keep him in the discussion this offseason, but he was not going to be playing first base for the Red Sox on April 1 in the Bronx. No way.

—- Argument A: LaRoche signing with the Nationals takes leverage away from the Red Sox. They do not have a viable backup plan any longer. Casey Kotchman, Mauro Gomez? Have fun.

       Argument B: LaRoche’s agreement with the Nats is further evidence to the idea that the Red Sox are confident that Napoli situation is going to be resolved, and he will be the Opening Day first baseman.

I will take the latter of the two opinions. The Red Sox and Napoli need each other. This gets done soon.

—- Mike Morse is expendable, but I don’t believe the Red Sox are a true fit. The reality of the situation is that this isn’t going to happen because Napoli will end up in Boston. But, for fun, let’s play along. Morse is a right handed power hitter who is not a defensively gifted first baseman. Same with Napoli. Morse will be 31-years old when he plays the 2013 season. Same with Napoli. The Red Sox would likely have to give up a left handed relief option as well as a decent minor league chip to nab Morse from Nats. I think it would take someone like Franklin Morales as opposed to Craig Breslow to pry the Nats’ power hitter away from the Nation’s capital. Morse is set to make $6.75MM in 2013, and Napoli, no matter how his contract is amended given his hip condition, will make substantially more. This offseason, Cherington has shown a willingness to overpay for free agents–in the short term–as long he is able to preserve and add to the pool of minor talent that awaits in the farm system. Ultimately, I simply don’t see the Red Sox extending themselves to acquire Morse. Look for the Rays, Yankees, and Mariners to pursue the big righty in a trade.

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