Adam LaRoche expected to be Nationals’ first baseman next season

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We’ve heard plenty of speculation that the Nationals could emerge as a suitor for free agent first baseman Prince Fielder, but general manager Mike Rizzo is doing his best to downplay the situation.

The Nationals held a conference call earlier today to discuss the Gio Gonzalez deal. Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports that Rizzo was asked flatly whether Adam LaRoche would be the club’s first baseman next season. His answer? “That’s correct.”

LaRoche signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Nationals last offseason, but was only limited to 43 games this past season before undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in June. Nationals manager Davey Johnson told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post earlier this month that the 32-year-old is back to 100 percent.

We’ll have to take Rizzo’s word on the matter for now, but remember that the Nationals were heavily involved on Mark Buehrle before he signed a four-year, $58 million deal with the Marlins earlier this month. The newly-acquired Gonzalez is only expected to make a little over $4 million through the arbitration process, so there could be some room left in the budget. Oh, and don’t forget that Rizzo has quite a lengthy history of doing business with Scott Boras. Like it or not, the Nationals will be mentioned as a possibility until Fielder is signed, sealed and delivered somewhere.

Mets invite Tim Tebow to spring training

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Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.

Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.

Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.