As soon as Derrek Lee signed with Baltimore it seemed inevitable that fellow free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche would end up in Washington, and sure enough Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that the Nationals and LaRoche are close to agreeing on a two-year contract.
LaRoche would replace Adam Dunn at first base, which is a big upgrade defensively and an even bigger downgrade offensively. LaRoche has hit .271 with an .827 OPS for his career, including .261 with 25 homers and a .788 OPS this season. Dunn has at least 38 homers in seven straight seasons, has never had an OPS below .800, and beats LaRoche’s career OPS by 75 points. And while Dunn’s detractors often point to his high strikeout totals, LaRoche whiffed 172 times in 2010.
Dunn signed with the White Sox for $56 million over four years, so LaRoche will come significantly cheaper, but the Nationals are still likely to overpay for a slightly above average first baseman and certainly haven’t gotten any better with the switch.
The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.
Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.
As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.