Contract length sticking point with LaRoche, Nats

By Bill Ladson /2/28/12 9:15 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- New Year's Day is around the corner with no deal in sight between the Nationals and free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, according to a baseball source. Last Saturday, it was believed that some progress had been made between the two parties.
The length of the contract remains to be the problem. LaRoche wants a three-year deal and the Nationals have not budged from their two-year offer. The club made a qualifying offer worth $13.3 million last November, but LaRoche turned it down. If LaRoche signs with another team, the Nats will get a compensation pick after the first round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
LaRoche and general manager Mike Rizzo were not available for comment.
There have been reports that the Red Sox have interest in LaRoche if they are unable to work out a deal with catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli. However, according to's Peter Gammons, Boston isn't willing to give LaRoche a three-year deal.
The Nationals have to make a decision soon on what to do at first base. They could use either Michael Morse or Tyler Moore at the position. Manager Davey Johnson made it known during the Winter Meetings and a golf tournament earlier this month that he would like to have LaRoche return in 2013.
"I really won't sleep comfortably until he [signs]. I hope that gets worked out," Johnson said during the Winter Meetings. "I told [Adam], 'You don't want to go where you are miserable. You know you are going to have a good time in D.C. I won't platoon you.' We'll see. ... That would put the icing on the cake."
LaRoche is coming off one of his best seasons, hitting .271 with 33 home runs and 100 RBIs. He also won his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.
In other news, the Nats have signed right-hander Matt Torra and third baseman Mike Costanzo to Minor League deals. They did not get an invite to big league Spring Training.
Torra played in the Rays' organization this past season, going 12-7 with a 4.10 ERA for Triple-A Durham. Costanzo went 1-for-18 during a brief big league stint with the Reds in 2012. In the Minor Leagues, Costanzo hit a combined .268 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs for Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville.