Today at Nats Park, with snow still covering the field where shadows keep the sun away, the Washington Nationals introduced first baseman Adam LaRoche as the newest member of the team. LaRoche signed a two-year deal worth $16 million, plus a team option on a third year last week.
The oft-traveled left-handed 31-year old joins his fifth Major League team in his eighth big league season.
LaRoche brings remarkably consistent -- if not excellent -- offensive numbers. He's hit 25 home runs in each of his last three seasons and hit between .261 and .285 in each of his big league seasons. He averages .271/.339/.488 with 26 home runs and 93 RBIs per 162 games throughout his career.
In addition, he brings a solid glove to his position, a point of emphasis this off-season from General Manager Mike Rizzo. "He was a player we identified early in the process as a guy that fit perfectly for our ballclub; offensively, defensively, left side of the plate, great character on and off the field, good in the dugout, good in the clubhouse, good in the community."
"It's great to be here," LaRoche said after modelling his crisp, home white No. 25 uniform. "I love the direction this team is going and what Mike [Rizzo] has done so far. I think this is a great start, it's gonna be a fun year."
LaRoche talked about the influence that current -- and former -- Nationals had in convincing him that Washington was the place he should sign.
"I talked to Matt Capps a little bit. Great guy, who I have a ton of respect for, and he said it's a great place to play. Adam Dunn, same way, he was here a couple years and he said 'the direction they're going from the front office to field operations, coaching staff, everything is first class' and totally recommended it. When you hear that from guys that have been around, guys you respect, and guys that have been here, played here, it makes the decision pretty easy."
LaRoche also spoke about the pride he takes in fielding his position well. "I've always said that hitting is streaky. You're gonna have your hot streaks, you're gonna have your slumps. Defense is -- especially I think in the infield in my position -- I have a chance to bail guys out a lot. I can make 'em look really bad or I can make 'em look really good and vice verse. It's something I've always taken pride in.
I love when those guys make a great play and an errant throw to be able to bail 'em out and potentially save some runs. I think pitchers appreciate it just as much as the guy that threw the ball in the dirt. Obviously it helps them, saves them some pitches, saves some runs and ultimately win some games.
It's something I work hard on, and I like the fact that I can pick those guys up as much as anything."
The two position players Rizzo has acquired this off-season, LaRoche and Jayson Werth, both bring a more complete package than the players they replace in the order: Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham.
Rizzo hopes the offense will be a wash, but if not he's confident that the defensive upgrade and overall athleticism -- he mentioned the ability of both players to go from first to third or score from second on a single -- will more than make up for the home runs lost with Dunn's departure.
Time will tell if Rizzo's recipe will cook. But it's his soup.