LaRoche declines Nats' qualifying offer

Free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche has declined the Nationals' qualifying offer, which would have given him a one-year contract for the 2013 season worth $13.3 million.

In no way should this be a surprise; LaRoche is the top free agent first baseman on the market and clearly has his eyes set on a multi-year contract.

LaRoche had until 5 p.m. today to accept the one-year deal.

The Nationals knew that LaRoche would decline their qualifying offer, but by extending it to him, they're guaranteed to receive a compensatory 2013 draft pick if LaRoche signs elsewhere. That pick would be a sandwich pick, and would fall between the first and second rounds.

This doesn't mean that the Nationals are now out of the running for LaRoche's services. They can continue to negotiate with the 32-year-old first baseman, who had a career year in 2012, hitting 33 home runs, driving in 100 runs, and winning his first career Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.

LaRoche will draw interest from other teams, but he's said that he would like to return to D.C., as long as the two sides can work out a deal that's fair for both parties.

The question now is what kind of market there is for LaRoche and how much the Nats will be willing to pay for a guy who brought very little because of injury in 2011 but played a major role in their success in 2012.

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