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Posted at 9:02 AM ET, 12/ 8/2010

Carlos Pena signs with Cubs, leaves Nationals looking for a first baseman

By Adam Kilgore

The name most frequently connected to the Nationals' vacancy at first base came off the market late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning when Chicago Cubs signed free agent Carlos Pena to a contract reportedly worth $10 million for one season.

With Pena no longer an option, the Nationals' most likely target at first becomes Adam LaRoche, who last season hit .261/.320/.468 (average/on-base/slugging) with 25 home runs. LaRoche, like Pena, is left-handed, which has become important to the Nationals after Jayson Werth's addition gave them three right-handed, middle-of-the-order bats (with Josh Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman) but no power lefties.

While LaRoche appears the Nationals' most likely option to replace Adam Dunn, they also have a secondary plan in place. If the Nationals miss out on LaRoche, they would move toward a less-expensive left-handed option, such as Brad Hawpe, in order to set up a platoon at first base with Michael Morse.

If the Nationals don't get LaRoche, it would also enhance the possibility they keep Willingham, who is available in a trade. Since Hawpe, for example, is coming off a down year (.245/.338/.419 with nine home runs) and Morse has never played a full major league season, the Nationals would want to keep Willingham to maintain a more established threat in the middle of their lineup.

Even with that plan in mind, the best bet remains LaRoche becoming a National.

By Adam Kilgore  | December 8, 2010; 9:02 AM ET
 
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Comments

They need to move fast before they get beat to the punch on LaRoche.

I also hope they are calling on Garza. I think the Nats line up well with TB for a trade. They need a LF, DH, catcher and relief pitching. Willingham, Ramos/Norris, and Clippard would fill 3 of those spots and we'd get a No. 1-2 starter.

Posted by: NatsWin | December 8, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

It was just in 09 that Hawpe hit .285 BA and 23 HR's.

He had 4 good years of consistency, and naturally when I drafted him for my Fantasy team...he crapped the bucket.

Not a bad back up sign, that could bounce back...

Posted by: Cartaldo | December 8, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

blessing in disguise if they sign LaRoche, i think he's a better all around player than Pena.

Posted by: nami322 | December 8, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I like LaRoche and I understand that he has a great personality (kind of like a blind date, but eh maybe we get lucky).

Overbay is available too and might make a good platoon partner for Morse.

If they miss out on both of those guys there are still plenty of options available (truly available) by trade.

One I'm not holding my breath for - Fielder doesn't fit the good defense profile, but he could provide some pretty good pop for a rental if the Brewers are interested in moving him off the books a year early.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 8, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

"If the Nationals don't get, it would also enhance the possibility they keep Willingham, who is available in a trade."

I don't get, it.

Posted by: FeelWood | December 8, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

NESN blog was reporting that what Nats were asking for Willingham from the Red Sox was 'ridiculous' according to team sources. C'mon Pants let's see some action! Don't be a fraidy cat Pants!! Show us you know how to build a team!!! Remember you have to give up more than other teams so they'll take you seriously. It's Phase 2 Pants get it together!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Brue | December 8, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Brad Hawpe has played less than 10 games at 1B in his career, how that plays into the club's need for D, I am not sure. I think that it is funny how they felt that defense at 1B is of great importance but theories of this or that OF who has little experience at the postion seem to work for them.

Anyway, inking or trading for a legit LH 1B (LaRoche or Overbay maybe) and getting Hawpe as a platoon partner with Morse in LF after Willingham gets traded -- and they should move Josh if there is some pitching out there for the guy -- sounds like a better idea to me.

Lineup might look like this:

Morgan
Desmond
Zim
Overbay/LaRoche
Werth (he goes cleanup vs LH)
Hawpe or Morse
Pudge
Espinoza
P

If Morgan and Desmond show up that lineup could score.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 8, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

good, i wanted laroche anyway. if we don't get him, it gets dicey, at least as far as "true" 1Bs are concerned.

Posted by: DCPowerGator | December 8, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Forget LaRoche; since the Brewers are willing to deal, give them what they want for Fielder who bats lefty. Prince is 26 and would be our answer for the next six to seven years. Trade for him and lock him up with a deal similar to Werth’s, and then show Zimm some money. Having a core of Zimm, Werth, Fielder, and Harper would be something to fear for years to come. If the Brewers did not want Hammer that would be ok, you could trade him in the summer and bring Harper up to take his spot. Then Dumpster dive for Webb. I would love to see this lineup.

Desi (SS) righty with speed and some pop
Espinosa (2nd) switch hitter with speed and some pop
Zimm (3rd) righty with power and a good eye
Fielder (1st) lefty with power
Werth (RF) righty with power and speed
Bernadina (CF) lefty with speed and growing power
Willingham (LF) righty with a good eye
Pudge/Ramos/Flores (C) all right handed and can hold their own

Posted by: hansenjo | December 8, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Kinda glad Pena didn't get signed by the Nats. LaRoche is a much better player and is who I hope they have targeted to man that position. Lets hope it happens!!

Posted by: cokedispatch | December 8, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

What is the plan for Harper since we signed Werth for RF and if we find a 1B elsewhere?

Posted by: alifaxwa2 | December 8, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Pena is no loss. Hopefully LaRoche or perhaps some other deal is in the works by silent running Rizzo. I got an email from the Nats telling STH that renewal is "Werth it!" Maybe not quite, but with some other pieces added it would be.

BTW, it is nice to see some serious Hot Stove coverage in the hard copy edition on a day when the dysfunctional Redskins are at it again.

Posted by: NatsFly | December 8, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I want no part of Fielder, he's Dunn only younger with less personality more chance to implode physically at sme point (the guy is almost 300 pounds and he's 5'11"!) and he's going to cost a ton of talent in trade and money/years down the line. If Fielder is a guy on their radar, then they should have just kept Dunn at $56M.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 8, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Let's not forget that LaRoche was responsible for one of the funniest blunders in Nationals history (at least one of the funniest blunders that the Nationals themselves didn't commit), which later became a teachable moment on how drugs can help treat attention deficit disorder. Here's the ESPN story to refresh memories. Does anyone have a link to the video? http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=mlb&id=2446449

Posted by: theblitz | December 8, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

What is the plan for Harper since we signed Werth for RF and if we find a 1B elsewhere?

Posted by: alifaxwa2 | December 8, 2010 10:01 AM

Are people really worried about where Bryce Harper will play? If he's good enough... wherever he wants. Left field might be a better fit for Werth as he gets older.

I'd like to see them land LaRoche - a steady Eddie. Only trade for a front line starter, bats can be bought.

Posted by: Kev29 | December 8, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I must confess this surprised me. First, everyone seemed to feel Pena would sign with the Nats. Second, we could have easily had him. All Rizzo had to do was go for 2 years. I have to think that either Pena was never plan A or Rizzo already has identified another option.

Posted by: grforbes | December 8, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I am sorry but I don't see the rush and importance on signing LaRoche, unless it's for a good price. Look at the Pena deal, gosh $10 million for a guy on the downside of his career, who batted 196 last year and has been decreasing in numbers every year since his breakout year in 2007.
We have both Willingham and Morse, proven commodities who could man 1st base. Unless we get a bargin on LaRoche, we don't really need him. Put the money towards a Pavano or Webb or trade for a splashy pitcher.
Everyone says that pitching is the key and the last time I checked we don't have any new answers on our really crappy starting staff

Posted by: Golfersal | December 8, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

grforbes>

I for one am grateful they didn't sign him. $10 million for a player who bats less than .200 and strikes out once for every three times he steps up to the plate. We could stock the bench with a half-dozen Willie Harris clones for the same price and get more output.

Posted by: KilgoreQTrout | December 8, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if the Nats are shopping Marrero as part of a trade deal. With Zimmerman & Werth in for the long hall I don't see much room for another RH hitter, even if Hammer stays for all of '11. Plus Marrero doesn't profile as a +D fielder than Rizzo seems to prefer. Maybe Marrero to TB w/ Ramos & Clippard? Not sure that makes sense but Marrero seems more like a trade chip than a future Nat at this point.

Posted by: estuartj | December 8, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

dfh21,

I lived In Milwaukee the last couple of years, and got to see him play a lot. Don't his let his size fool you; Prince changed his diet a couple years back, now he is a strict vegan and a work out machine. He also has cut down his errors over the past couple years, three years ago he was in the double digits, two years ago he had Seven, last year he had four. Also next year he will be the magical 27. He also strikes out less than Dunn and LaRoch.

Oh and to all who want LaRoch over the last three years he has been averaged 145 K's and 57 BB's.
Prince’s K’s to BB’s is 136 K’s 102 BB’s

Posted by: hansenjo | December 8, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

dfh21,

I lived In Milwaukee the last couple of years, and got to see him play a lot. Don't his let his size fool you; Prince changed his diet a couple years back, now he is a strict vegan and a work out machine. He also has cut down his errors over the past couple years, three years ago he was in the double digits, two years ago he had Seven, last year he had four. Also next year he will be the magical 27. He also strikes out less than Dunn and LaRoch.

Oh and to all who want LaRoch over the last three years he has been averaged 145 K's and 57 BB's.
Prince’s K’s to BB’s is 136 K’s 102 BB’s

Posted by: hansenjo | December 8, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I also would like to see Fielder here and am glad to hear more about his diet and workout regime. Still think that is a huge longshot. How can a team sign a .196 hitter for 10 million dollars? That is crazy.

I almost hate to ask this but besides the obvious venom that Brue spills here daily in his anti Rizzo rants, why do you call him "pants"?

Maybe because I am an old man, I just like information and opinions and can do without the sarcasm but that is what blogs are all about is variety so I am in no means being critical of what one man thinks is important to him. Just not my cup of tea.

Posted by: sjm3091 | December 8, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

The need a solid 1st basemen and improved starting pitcher to make Werth, worth it. Otherwise, they just got hosed by an agent.

Posted by: bermudml | December 8, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Why would Pena sign for only one season? I could see it if we were nearing the beginning of Spring Training, and he figured he'd just sign for a year and try again next year. But doing it now seems to me to be passing-up a lot of potential suitors ready to give him more now.

Hope he doesn't get hurt this season.

Posted by: noslok | December 8, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Relax everyone. LaRoche is the one they want. What was it Hannibal Lecter said to Clarice Starling? All good things, to those who wait.

Posted by: shanks1 | December 8, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

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