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4 Ways Adam LaRoche's Return Impacts the Washington Nationals' Lineup

Robert WoodCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2016

4 Ways Adam LaRoche's Return Impacts the Washington Nationals' Lineup

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    The Washington Nationals re-signed first baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal worth $24 million, Tuesday. The new contract also has an option for a third year.

    Now, the Nationals will have to see how LaRoche's return affects their lineup.

    How much do the Nationals need LaRoche's defense? Where would he bat in this lineup? Does he provide this lineup with balance? Finally, will his return force someone else out of the lineup?

    Here are four ways LaRoche's return impacts the Nationals' lineup.

4. Anchoring the Defense

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    The Washington Nationals had a very good defense last season, and Adam LaRoche was the anchor.

    The Nationals committed 94 errors, finishing fourth in National League. The Nats' .985 fielding percentage was also good for fourth in the NL.

    LaRoche committed only seven errors in 1,367 total chances, good enough for a .985 fielding percentage. He finished third, third and second, respectively, in those three categories.

    As a result, Adam LaRoche was the 2012 NL Gold Glove Award Winner at first base. LaRoche was the only Nationals position player to win the award.

    His return helps maintain one of the Nationals' biggest strengths.

3. Balancing the Batting Order

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    The Washington Nationals had a right-hander-heavy lineup last season.

    They are attempting to find balance in the lineup, by alternating right-handed and left-handed hitters as much as possible. This helps negate any advantage for a starting pitcher and causes problems for an opposing manager attempting to find favorable matchups out of his bullpen.

    The Nats already addressed this problem by trading for center fielder Denard Span, a lefty.

    But, if Adam LaRoche would have signed elsewhere, the move potentially would have negated any balance Span would have provided in the batting order.

    With LaRoche in the lineup, the Nats can maintain the balanced batting order they are looking for.

2. Cleaning Up

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    Perhaps the most balanced part of the Nationals lineup is the heart of their order.

    In 2012, the right-handed Ryan Zimmerman batted third. He finished the season hitting .282 with 25 home runs and 95 RBI.

    Michael Morse typically hit fifth and is also right-handed. In only 102 games during the 2012 regular season, Morse hit .291 with 18 home runs and 62 RBI.

    Right in the heart of it all was the lefty Adam LaRoche, batting clean up. LaRoche hit .271 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI. He led the Nationals in both home runs and RBI.

    Davey Johnson has some flexibility in this matter. If Michael Morse is out of the lineup, Johnson can pencil in other right handers into the fifth spot to maintain the balance in the batting order. Likely candidates would be Ian Desmond or Jayson Werth.

    But, Johnson may need this lineup flexibility sooner rather than later.

1. Musical Chairs

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    All this talk about Michael Morse's position in the lineup may be a moot point.

    With Adam LaRoche's signing, Michael Morse becomes trade bait. Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post explains:

    Adam LaRoche’s agreement with the Nationals today, coupled with an outfield chocked full of players whose contractual rights the Nationals control for years to come, leads to the clear conclusion that Michael Morse is odd man out and will almost certainly be traded before the Nationals report for spring training in five weeks. 

    Manager Davey Johnson has admitted he could not foresee both LaRoche and Morse returning with Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth taking up any potential outfield spot for Morse. The Nationals have Morse under control for another season at $6.75 million. As Johnson said at the winter meetings: “Once you have everyday players that have established their credentials in the major leagues are pretty good, it’s hard to start sharing roles.”

    In essence, the future of LaRoche decided the future of Michael Morse. With LaRoche in the lineup, Morse will not be missed as much.

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