As 2013 nears, Nats still waiting on LaRoche

If you happen to be interested in getting a sneak peak at the Nationals' new-look batting practice caps for this season, you're in luck.

Here's a look at the new BP hats for all 30 teams, courtesy of ESPN.com's "Uni Watch." The Nats' cap will have a red curly "W", white paneling on the front, blue paneling on the sides and the back, and a red brim.

I'll need to see it in person to give it my full endorsement, but I like the look online, at least.

As I'm sure those of you who have put down the eggnog and returned to the office have noticed, Christmas has passed, and still there's no word from Adam LaRoche on whether he will accept the Nationals' two-year offer and return to D.C.

LaRoche continues to look around the league for a three-year contract, and so the Nationals continue to wait. They hadn't laid out a hard deadline by which LaRoche needed to give them an answer, but they had hoped to hear from the free agent first baseman one way or another by Christmas. Now that Santa has come and gone, the Nats certainly would like to know which way LaRoche will turn sooner rather than later.

The more time that passes before the Nats get definitive word from LaRoche, the fewer chances there might be to trade Michael Morse, if necessary.

This has been a long, drawn out process with LaRoche, who (as we've discussed plenty of times) wants to return to the Nationals, but would prefer to do so with a three-year deal in hand. The Nats don't want to go more than two years for the 33-year-old first baseman, and they didn't appear to be the only ones.

Despite LaRoche's offensive and defensive production in 2012, he hasn't been able to find much (if any) interest from teams when it comes to three-year contract proposals.

The Red Sox continue to be a wild card here, however. Boston's three-year deal with Mike Napoli is still on hold 24 days after the Sox agreed to terms with the free agent first baseman/catcher, reportedly due to a medical issue with one of Napoli's hips.

As the Red Sox try and rework their deal with Napoli, they're kicking the tires on other options, one of which is LaRoche. According to SB Nation Boston, the Red Sox are talking to LaRoche, and FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal adds that these discussions include both two- and three-year contract possibilities.

I was told by a Nationals source at the Winter Meetings that the Nats had viewed the Red Sox as their prime competition for LaRoche prior to Boston agreeing to terms with Napoli. If the Sox complete their deal with the 31-year-old Napoli, they would be out of the mix for LaRoche. But if the Napoli negotiations fall through due to medical concerns, LaRoche could be Boston's fallback option.

It's possible the Red Sox might shy away from signing LaRoche because of the draft pick compensation attached to him. Because Boston has a protected top 10 pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, however, the Sox would need to forfeit just a second-round selection if they signed LaRoche or another player who received a qualifying offer.

The Rangers recently signed left-handed hitting catcher A.J. Pierzynski, making them less of a candidate for LaRoche, but that's not to say they couldn't get back in the bidding, as well.

LaRoche's market has been a bit unclear all offseason, and that continues to be the case. Are the Red Sox really interested, or are they just trying to gain leverage in their continuing talks with Napoli? Are the Rangers still looking to add a big bat after losing Josh Hamilton to their division rivals? Could another contending team swoop in and toss three years at LaRoche?

The Nationals continue to wait, but who knows how much longer they'll sit back and let LaRoche test the market before they ask for an answer.

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