The wait for Adam LaRoche to make up his mind had played out long enough. It was time to decide if he would take the Washington Nationals' offer or move on.
The slugging first baseman decided to stay with the Nationals on Tuesday, agreeing to a two-year deal with a mutual option for a third year. He wanted a full three-year contract, but Washington was never going to offer one.
"I think we both were getting tired of the process," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "We had a lot of conversations back and forth with his representative. Adam and I had a few private conversations. … I made it clear to Adam that it's time to get this thing done. Make a decision. Our offer is what it is. It's been on the table for a while. It's time to think of your options and pull the trigger if you want to be here."
LaRoche's return completes the final piece of an expected starting lineup for the defending NL East champions and renders Michael Morse expendable. Morse played outfield last year but would have moved to first base if LaRoche had not re-signed, giving the Nationals much of the leverage they needed to balk at LaRoche's bid for the extra year in the contract.
LaRoche had a superb 2012 at the plate — .271 average, 33 home runs, 100 RBIs — but he's 33 years old, and Washington is flush with young, emerging talent that will cost a lot of money to keep in a few years. Also, LaRoche's value was hampered on the open market because any team signing him would have forfeited a supplementary first-round draft pick to the Nationals.
"We were in a pretty enviable position negotiating-wise because our other option was already under contract and in-house," Rizzo said. "And that allowed us to be so patient with Adam."
Now it will be the Nationals' turn to test the trade market with Morse, who lost his outfield spot when Washington acquired Denard Span in a trade in November. Morse batted .291 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs in 102 games last year.
"We're certainly not going to give him away," Rizzo said. "But if we can make the right deal that works for Mike and for us as a franchise, we'll certainly do that deal."
Shortly after the news broke that LaRoche's deal was done, Morse tweeted: "Hey everyone, going silent for a while".
Reliever Howell, Dodgers finalize 1-year contract
Left-hander J.P. Howell and the Los Angeles Dodgers have finalized a $2.85 million, one-year contract.
The 29-year-old reliever was 1-0 with a 3.04 ERA in 55 games for the Tampa Bay Rays last season and held left-handed batters to a .200 average (17 for 85).
He has a 21-23 record with a 4.42 ERA in 33 starts and 234 relief appearances for Kansas City (2005) and Tampa Bay (2006-12).
Howell can earn $750,000 based on relief appearances: $75,000 for 50, $125,000 for 55, $150,000 for 60 and $200,000 each for 65 and 70. He also can earn $300,000 for innings; $50,000 each for 50, 55, 65 and 70, and $100,000 for 75.
Howell also has $700,000 in games finished bonuses: $100,000 each for 30, 35 and 40, and $200,000 apiece for 45 and 50.
The deal was agreed to last week and announced Monday.