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The news of the day is the signing of Adam LaRoche to a 2 year, $15M deal with a seemingly unlikely to be exercised 3rd-year mutual option for $10M. As for right now, it was probably the best move the Nats could make at first base, considering the list of available free agent options.

LaRoche is a good hitter but not great, who had probably his worst season last year since his sophomore effort back in 2005. Prior to last season, his OPS was .849 from 2006-2009, but him in the good not great category. Last year’s .788 is a little troubling, but part of that was driven by a low AVG, he still hit 25 HRs. Somewhat troubling, though, he had a career high BABIP in 2010, and a career high K rate. As for fielding, his career UZR/150 of -2.6 is just around average, and he’s a solid fielder. Average in every sense.

Except… he’s been a different player in the first half of the season compared to the second half. His splits are remarkable, with a .776 OPS in the first part of the season compared to a .889 OPS in the second half. I did a more detailed analysis yesterday, if you’re interested in seeing how he hits over the course of the season.

With LaRoche, the lineup is relatively complete. Against starting lefty pitchers, it might look something like this:

1. Nyjer Morgan – CF (L)
2. Ian Desmond – SS (R)
3. Ryan Zimmerman – 3B (R)
4. Jayson Werth – RF (R)
5. Adam LaRoche – 1B (L)
6. Mike Morse – LF (R)
7. Danny Espinosa – 2B (S)
8. PudgeRamosFlores – C

Of course there might be changes in there. Maybe they’d like to break up the righties more, and if they do they could move LaRoche up even more. Early in the season, LaRoche might be further down the list until he gets his legs under him. As for the lineup against RHP, it might look like this:

1. Nyjer Morgan – CF (L)
2. Ian Desmond – SS (R)
3. Ryan Zimmerman – 3B (R)
4. Adam LaRoche – 1B (L)
5. Jayson Werth – RF (R)
6. Rick Ankiel – LF (L)
7. Danny Espinosa – 2B (S)
8. Catcher Combo

That’s actually a pretty impressive lineup, albeit with a few assumptions. Assumption #1 is that Desmond and Espinosa improve as they gain experience, which I don’t think is that much of a stretch. Another assumption is that Nyjer Morgan doesn’t hit as poorly this coming season as he did last year. It doesn’t have to be his 2009 Nats’ season, but somewhere in between would be nice. If not, the lineup would have to shift, and I’m not sure moving Desmond or Espinosa up to the #1 spot is good for their anti-walk skillset. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that there is the opportunity for Bernadina to show improvement and take the CF role.

By Charlie