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Morse will earn $6.75 million next season before hitting free agency.
The Washington Nationals completed their search for a center fielder with the acquisition of Denard Span. As a result, Bryce Harper will move to left, Jayson Werth will stay in right and the Nats will choose between Adam LaRoche or Mike Morse at first base.
ESPN's Jayson Stark learns from an AL executive that Washington is "definitely shopping" the latter in order to re-sign LaRoche.
This is puzzling because Morse provides the team with so much more financial flexibility and similar production.
The slugger will earn a modest $6.75 million in 2013, his contract year. Based on performance, the Nationals could extend him during the summer, pursue him as a free agent next offseason or give the 2014 job to powerful, pre-arbitration eligible Tyler Moore.
Re-signing LaRoche was previously a top priority because of his handedness. Among the remaining regulars, only Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper could hit from the left side. The Nationals needed the 33-year-old to provide balance.
But that's no longer a concern with the lefty-swinging Span on the roster.
Washington is bidding against the Boston Red Sox for LaRoche, who reportedly seeks a three-year deal (via Adam Kilgore, Washington Post). He's the top first baseman in the free-agent class, easily worth $13-15 million per season.
This positional decision indirectly determines which starting pitcher the Nationals will pursue. LaRoche's money could buy Ryan Dempster or Kyle Lohse. If GM Mike Rizzo commits to his Gold Glove winner, however, he will be picking from a lower tier when filling out the rotation.