Nats' first-base focus likely shifts to LaRoche

Nats' first-base focus likely shifts to LaRoche

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Nationals continue to look for a first baseman and starting pitcher.

Two executives outside the Nationals' organization believed the club would acquire free agent Carlos Pena, but he is close to agreeing to terms with the Cubs. It's not known why the Nats couldn't acquire Pena's services.

The Nationals most likely will focus on free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche. He is a player whom the Nats have had their eyes on for several months. He is a solid defensive first baseman and is coming off the best season of his career, hitting .261 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs for the D-backs.

"In the next few days, we are going to start some conversations with the Nationals," LaRoche said via phone on Monday. "If we come on the same page, I would definitely have interest in playing for them."

General manager Mike Rizzo declined to talk about his plans for first base, but did say he would consider candidates internally. One source said the team would consider outfielder/infielder Mike Morse for the position, but the chances of that happening are unlikely.

"We know what the list is. We are still working on a whole bunch of different options to improve the club," Rizzo said. "We continue to work hard as we are doing right now."

Although Rizzo said it was a long shot to sign free-agent left-hander Cliff Lee, a source said on Tuesday that Washington's chances of acquiring Lee's services increased after the club agreed to terms with outfielder Jayson Werth.

"The Nationals are not out of it by any means," the source said.

Reports have surfaced that Washington may end up being one team to offer Lee a seven-year deal, but a source said the Nationals are not offering the lefty such a contract and would not get involved in a bidding war with opposing teams like they did with first baseman Mark Teixeira during the 2008 offseason.

Rizzo reiterated on Tuesday afternoon that it is unlikely the Nationals will acquire Lee.

"We have had dialogue with the representative," Rizzo said. "I still don't think we are a real shot to acquire him."

It also seems the Nationals are out of the Carl Pavano race, even though, according to reports, his representative met with the club on Tuesday. A source said Monday that the Nationals are reluctant to give Pavano a multi-year deal. Pavano is coming off one of his best seasons, going 17-11 with 3.75 ERA for the Twins in 2010. It was his best season since 2004, when he was with the Marlins.

Rizzo said he wants a pitcher who could win a lot of games for the Nationals.

"The biggest step for me is wins," Rizzo said. "Who is a winning pitcher and how did they get to that win? Obviously, there are different parameters and different metrics that we use. Wins are not the end all be all, as we saw in this year's American League Cy Young [Award winner, Felix Hernandez].

"Wins is an important thing, because to win a lot of games, you have to pitch a lot of innings and you have to be effective in doing it. There are a whole bunch of different metrics to look at pitchers. Are they long-term assets? Are they short-term assets and that type of thing."

Making a trade for a starter seems to be the best option at this point.

"There are an array of options in pitching and position players -- filling out holes," Rizzo said. "There are a whole bunch of things going on -- one dominoes off the other and the other interacts with the other. There are a lot of moving parts."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.