December 29, 2012

Major League Notebook: Red Sox seek leverage by pursuing LaRoche

From news service reports

WASHINGTON - The Boston Red Sox were among a handful of teams -- the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays also were on the list -- that had contact with free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche earlier in the offseason.

Now, with the Red Sox presumably in more advanced discussions than before, there is an interesting development in the free agency of LaRoche.

Earlier this month, the Red Sox seemed to have filled their need at first base by agreeing to terms with free agent catcher-first baseman Mike Napoli on a three-year, $39 million deal.

More than three weeks later, the contract hasn't been made official because, according to multiple reports, there was a snag in Napoli's physical and the Red Sox are trying to renegotiate.

So how does this affect LaRoche? By pursuing LaRoche, the Red Sox gain some leverage against Napoli's camp.

Also, talks with LaRoche's camp have been about two- and three-year deals, according to reports, and that puts pressure on the Washington Nationals as they try to re-sign him.

LaRoche, 33, wants a three-year deal and the Nationals haven't budged, holding firm on a two-year offer without bridges such as an option third year.

The Nationals understand they will have serious financial commitments to their homegrown talent in a few years and, maybe more important, they will have a backlog of infielders then.

Surprisingly, LaRoche's list of suitors has dwindled, likely because of the high draft pick a team would have to give up to sign him. The Nationals offered LaRoche a $13.3 million qualifying offer, which he declined, and as a result, any team other than his former team that signs him will surrender a first-round pick to the Nationals.

Because the Red Sox finished with one of the worst records in baseball and have a top-10 pick, they will be allowed to keep it and would have to cough up only a second-round pick.

The Baltimore Orioles were interested in him but were reluctant to surrender a draft pick, according to the Baltimore Sun.

While LaRoche could gain leverage in his negotiations with the Nationals with a three-year offer from the Red Sox, if given one, the Nationals still hold plenty of card.

They have options: re-sign LaRoche and trade Michael Morse; don't bring back LaRoche and play Morse at first base; or let LaRoche walk, trade Morse and play Tyler Moore at first. But the Nationals and LaRoche have a mutual interest in each other, and the team still hopes to bring him back. 

INDIANS: The team sold its regional TV sports network and telecast rights for games to Fox Sports Media Group, which will have the exclusive long-term local telecast rights.

The Plain Dealer reported that Fox Sports is paying an estimated $230 million for SportsTime Ohio and $400 million over 10 years to broadcast the games.

Since the 2006 season, games have been on SportsTime Ohio, a Cleveland-based regional sports network created by the Indians' owners, Paul and Larry Dolan.

The Dolans hoped that owning their own network would give the team more revenue and allow them to control programming much like the New York Yankees' YES Network and the Boston Red Sox's New England Sports Network.

Paul Dolan said in a statement that the sale of SportsTime Ohio will strengthen the franchise and help its ability to build competitive teams.

Fox Sports Media Group, which is owned by News Corp., already owns 20 U.S. regional sports networks.

 

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