I looked at the potential LaRoche deal from the soulless automaton side and have pretty much endorsed the Nats line of thinking. It's not fiscally prudent to sign LaRoche to that 3rd year if you feel that you can replace his production this year (they feel they can) and he is not need long-term (they feel he isn't). Sure you will lose that fielding but saving that is probably not worth the cost hitching your wagon to Adam given the above.
Are they crazy to think the above? The production part is fairly straight forward. If Morse is healthy his most likely line is going to be something like .290 / .330 / .500. For all intents and purposes that is as good as LaRoche did last year, maybe a bit better. Sure Morse could collapse or face injury risk, but as a one-year gamble it's not a bad one. The long term is a bit hazier. The Nats don't have anyone who has produced in AA yet and while they like Rendon (and to a lesser extent Skole) this gamble is a bit bigger one to play. Even if one of these guys comes through to be the player LaRoche is, circumstance could force them into another position, or another team, or it could be 3 years until they are really ready.
This is all why the LaRoche signing doesn't seem clear. It isn't. But overall it makes sense to worry about 2013 and maaaybe 2014, but not much further because too much could change to worry about 2015 and beyond. Losing LaRoche shouldn't hurt 2013 too much. So stick to your guns.
That's the non fan view of things. When I try to look at it through the glasses of a hard core fan, I get kind of pissed.
Real teams spend money
No, you don't HAVE to spend money to win and if you can get away with not doing it than more power to you, but understand that you'd be getting away with it. In general when you get to the level of winning 90+ games, there is precious little you can do to secure your team more wins. Instead what you are doing is signing players that reduce your production variability. Instead of being a 93 win team that could conceivably win 88-96 games, you spend an extra 15-20 million and become a 94 win team that could conceivably win 91-97 games.
Does that matter? Yes, yes it does. First and foremost it shows your #1 concern is winning with no caveats. Not "winning, while spending smartly" or "winning, with an eye toward our future plans". No just "winning". How can get to the point that if something goes wrong we STILL win.
Signing LaRoche is a way to probably reduce that variability. Morse may have a good shot at hitting as good or a little better than LaRoche, but he's also more of an injury risk, has that questionable approach, and is a defensive liability. There's a lot here that can go wrong. For Adam it's likely either "he hits well" or "he hits ok". Sure, ride it out and see if you can't get Adam back at the deal that you want, but when push comes to shove, when either another team bites and offers the 3rd year or if the Nats are staring down the start of Spring Training, you make that deal.
This isn't a 6 year deal. This isn't 20 million per season. It doesn't even cross into the "have to spend $$$ to sign our young guys" time frame (Both Ian and ZNN would hit that point after the 2015 season). This deal, if made, should not effect the team negatively in any appreciable way.
It's one thing for me to dismiss the above for the loving embrace of cold hard facts (the team is good enough that even without signing LaRoche, in this new 2-Wild Card format, they should be a near-lock for the playoffs and even with the Wild Card 1-game showdown that's still enough), but I'm a bit surprised more fans aren't saying the above. Full faith in Rizzo? Blind optimism in this being a 100+ win team regardless?