Three years for Adam LaRoche is not a lot. It's only a year more than you'd probably want for the guy, but in the past that wouldn't have stopped anyone from signing him. Even in the fancy stat era someone, oh I don't know, let's say Texas, would have said "Every success window is limited and ours may be passing by. We lost our best hitter and a very good hitting catcher, which is harder to replace. We're going to be in a dogfight with the Angels and A's. We can't afford to lose out on the playoffs by a game or two again and the blah fielding, mediocre hitting Mitch Moreland is about a game or two worse than Adam LaRoche. Let's bite the bullet and sign him"
But they aren't saying that and a lot of people are saying it's because of the draft pick lost. The Nats offered Adam arbitration. Adam is a top notch Type A player. If he signs elsewhere the Nats will get a first (or 2nd depending) round draft pick. And currently teams are terribly terribly overvaluing draft picks.
Seriously go look at some of the draft classes. 2004. 2005. 2006. 2007. 2008. Look at the last 10 picks of the first round and the supplementals. What do you see? A hell of a lot more names you never heard of and never-wases than actual quality major leaguers. Yet teams are now delusional, desperately holding onto long-odd chances of striking it rich instead of signing players that might help them, like a person holding 10 lottery tickets refusing to take $50 for them.
That's not to say this strategy is complete nonsense. Take a look at the Nats. They among the most degenerate of these gamblers. Last year's draft was basically a high-schooler with a ruined elbow and minor league seat fillers. But the Nats can afford to do this right now. They have a team set up for success for the forseeable future. Like a venture capitalist flush with money, they can throw 10 million at something hoping it becomes the next big thing. If it fails, so what they still have a ton of money. They can't do this forever though, so it'll be interesting to see if in 2015/6, if the Nats haven't won anything yet, if the team is still in this mode. Then there is the flipside, 10 or so teams nowhere near competing that need a huge break to get competitive again. The right draft success can help immensely in that. Would you still be thinking the Nats are prohibitive World Series favorites if instead of Strasburg and Bryce they had Dustin Ackley and Drew Pomeranz? Not bad players but not game changers. So while it's nice to have a guy like LaRoche on the team, he's not going to make a big enough difference to justify taking away that lottery ticket when that's kind of your only chance of success.
But the 10-15 middle ground teams, all fighting for playoff spots in this new 2nd WC major leagues, what's their excuse? There really isn't any. For them it can't be about the prospect of future success lost so it comes down to a far simpler reason, one we all recognize well. The prospect of future money spent. Draft picks are cheaper. Much much cheaper. So you don't sign good players and you hope to draft well. You squander legit chances at playoffs for future dynasties that may never come but dammit will be a lot cheaper if they do!
This is probably just a phase. Things are cyclic and what's overvalued today might be undervalued tomorrow. But even if it is, it's killing LaRoche's chances of signing that 3 year deal he wants.