Back in D.C. to receive the Hometown Hero Award from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Nationals manager charmed the collection of business leaders with his self-deprecating wit and bold pronouncements.
"Every time I look at this award, I'm going to think about how much it cost me," he said, before telling the crowd that he brought the wrong suitcase to Washington, leaving his wife, Susan, without an outfit to wear to the luncheon and forcing him to take quick action.
"Chamber fans, a lot of the stores down here got my money," Johnson quipped.
Johnson was honored by the Chamber for being "integral to the success of D.C.'s baseball franchise, and the impact ... felt by District residents, businesses and fans alike." The 2012 National League Manager of the Year Award winner was brief, but emphatic in his remarks to the crowd about the upcoming season.
"I've got a great group of guys out there at Nationals Park, and if you think this last year was a good year, let me tell you something -- we have a higher ceiling than last year," Johnson said, drawing applause. "Next year is going to be my last year, and I'm going to go out with my fourth World Series ring."
Critical to that pursuit is the re-signing of first baseman Adam LaRoche. The negotiations between the Nationals and the slugger have basically come to a standstill, with Johnson and the team making several pitches to bring him back into the fold while LaRoche continues to debate his options.
"I thought there were some positive signs from [general manager Mike Rizzo] that he thought we could get something done prior to Christmas," Johnson told reporters after his remarks. "Adam knows we want him back. I don't know what the status is -- is Josh Hamilton not going somewhere causing some problems on who's doing what? I don't know."
Essentially, Johnson said the ball was in LaRoche's court.
"It's tough," Johnson said. "I've seen guys hold out, which I don't understand. I would want clarity with where I was going. But he's probably off hunting or riding a horse somewhere."
Aside from the LaRoche situation, Johnson said the Nationals don't have a long to-do list, but one pressing need is shoring up the bullpen after the departure of lefty reliever Sean Burnett to the Los Angeles Angels.
"We're trying to beef up the left-hand side of the bullpen," Johnson said. "And, depending on what happens, possibly go after some young starters. Depth-wise in the organization, we've good pretty good depth. The only area we're a little bit short in is starting pitching."
Johnson also discussed coming up with a plan for Washington's non-roster invitees to Spring Training, and potentially bringing back utility man Mark DeRosa. But all those moves tend to hinge on the one hanging thread left in the Nationals' offseason.
"It all goes back to LaRoche," Johnson said. "Maybe I ought to call Mark and see what he's thinking. I've been plugging, plugging, plugging [LaRoche]. He knows how we think."
Elliott Smith is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.