With Haren locked up, Nats focus on LaRoche

With Haren locked up, Nats focus on LaRoche

With Haren locked up, Nats focus on LaRoche
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Nationals went to the Winter Meetings determined to re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche. The problem is, they still differ on the length of the contract. LaRoche wants a three-year deal, but the Nats don't want to give him more than a two-year deal.

Will the two parties agree to terms? Assistant general manager Bryan Minniti remains optimistic that LaRoche will remain a member of the Nationals.

"The reality is, we made the offer and we have been in touch with him the whole time. We obviously would love to have him," Minniti said. "If things don't work out, we have capable options. We'll see how it plays out. You never know.

"There are a lot of teams that are still going to have needs, and he could fill those needs for somebody else. We'll stay with it, stay in touch and see what happens."

The Nats didn't leave the Winter Meetings empty handed, signing right-hander Dan Haren to a one-year, $13 million contract, which was finalized Friday after Haren passed a physical. He effectively replaces Edwin Jackson from the 2012 pitching staff.

A three-time All-Star, Haren spent the last two-plus seasons with the Angels. He missed time in 2012 because of injuries to his back and hip, but he still made 30 starts and won 12 games.

"On the heels of the [Denard] Span trade, we came in here and got Haren signed and laid the groundwork for potential trades," Minniti said. "As things tend to go, we feel good that we had good dialogue."

Deals done: In addition to Haren, left-hander Zach Duke received a one-year deal. Terms were not disclosed. Duke will be one of the long relievers out of the bullpen. Left-hander Bill Bray was signed to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Rule 5 Draft activity: The Nationals didn't select a player in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, but they lost four players -- pitchers Danny Rosenbaum, Jack McGeary and Hector Nelo and infielder Jeff Kobernus -- in the Major League and Minor League phases of the Draft.

Goals accomplished: If Haren stays healthy, the Nats will have arguably the best rotation in baseball. Haren joins a strong rotation that includes Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler.

Unfinished business: They are still trying to sign LaRoche, and the team remains steadfast in offering a two-year deal. The Nationals' biggest competition is the Rangers, but an industry source believes Texas will not go beyond two years either.

If they are able to re-sign LaRoche, the Nats will trade outfielder Michael Morse for prospects, according to the source, who believes the Rays will be the best choice in trade discussions. Tampa Bay is loaded with pitching prospects.

The Nationals are looking to sign one more left-handed reliever, and J.P. Howell is hoping to sign with the club soon. Washington is also looking for pitching depth in case an injury comes along to the Major League rotation. Those pitchers most likely will start the year in the Minor Leagues.

Team's bottom line: "We have not made one call about [Morse]. We fielded a lot of calls, and you can see the reason why. He is a middle-of-the-lineup hitter who put up some big numbers. He hits for average and some power." -- general manager Mike Rizzo

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.