Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that the Red Sox are now in discussions with free agent Adam LaRoche. Boston is in need of a first baseman, and LaRoche has not yet signed with his previous team, the Nationals. Now that Washington has traded for outfielder Denard Span, it's very likely that either LaRoche walks, or the Nats re-sign him, only to trade Mike Morse, who would have been pushed out of both the outfield and first base, were this to happen.
LaRoche was an offensive force for the Nationals this past season, hitting .271/.341/.510 over 647 plate appearances. The thing is, at this stage of his career, that kind of season hasn't happened very often. While Laroche posted a .276/.349/.500 line and 120 OPS+ from 2006 through 2009 (age 26 through 29), he's hit just .255/.327/.462 since, and missed nearly all of 2011 with a labrum tear. As he'll be 33 years old, and is seeking a three-year deal -- disagreement on two years versus three is part of why the Nats haven't signed him yet -- that's worrisome.
LaRoche is a left-handed batter whose power might be muted a bit by Fenway's expansive right field power alley. He was uncharacteristically productive against his fellow southpaw in 2012 as well, a fact that might account for the better-than-expected season. There are a few flags here that, while not quite extreme enough to be red, are still worthy of attention.
Throw in that LaRoche was extended a qualifying offer, and will cost Boston their second-round draft pick, and there's even more reason to hope that LaRoche is more backup plan for the Mike Napoli negotiations than he is the primary option. The Red Sox have supposedly offered Napoli a three-year deal, but not the fourth year he wants, so it's understandable they would look elsewhere just in case. It does seem unlikely, though, given Boston's desire to build from within, that they would sacrifice a pick in the low 40s next year -- and the expanded draft budget that comes with it -- for Adam LaRoche. Nick Swisher, maybe, but LaRoche?
If the Napoli negotiations fall through, Boston might be better off asking what Mike Morse will cost. The Nationals won't be dealing him unless they re-sign LaRoche, but according to Heyman, that's still a possibility even post-Span.