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Nats make qualifying offer to LaRoche

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Nats make qualifying offer to LaRoche

The Nationals made a qualifying contract offer to Adam LaRoche before today's 5 p.m. deadline, but not to any of their other free agents, ensuring they would receive at least one draft pick as compensation should they lose the veteran first baseman.

LaRoche was given the one-year, $13.3 million offer all free agents are eligible to be offered under MLB's new compensation system, according to MLB.com and FoxSports.com. The 32-year-old can either accept the offer (which equates to the average salary of the top 125-paid players in the majors this season) and return to the Nationals for 2013 or decline the offer and seek a multi-year contract with any of baseball's 30 clubs.

If LaRoche (who has seven days to make a decision) declines the offer as expected, the Nationals would receive a compensatory draft pick (a "sandwich" pick between the first and second rounds) should he ultimately sign with another franchise this winter. That franchise would then lose its first-round draft pick (unless it's one of the top 10 picks) under a system installed under the new collective bargaining agreement that eliminated the old method of classifying free agents as "Type A" or "Type B" players to determine compensation.

Essentially, the Nationals are acknowledging they're willing to pay LaRoche $13.3 million for another season of his services. In truth, they're willing to offer him more than a one-year deal, and the two sides could still reach an agreement on a contract potentially in the range of three years and $36 million.

LaRoche, like all free agents, is free to begin negotiating with other clubs Saturday morning. Coming off a season in which he hit a career-high 33 homers while matching his previous high of 100 RBI and winning his first Gold Glove award, he's expected to listen to offers from other teams in the market for a first baseman. The most likely suitors are the Red Sox, Orioles and perhaps Rangers.

In the end, the Nationals will have the ability to match or exceed any of those offers, or try to convince LaRoche to take less money or fewer guaranteed years to return to a club that believes it can contend for a World Series title in 2013 and beyond.

Though they extended the qualifying offer to LaRoche, the Nationals did not do the same with any of their other free agents (Edwin Jackson, Sean Burnett, Mark DeRosa, Michael Gonzalez, Zach Duke). Jackson, who made $11 million this season, was the only member of that group who would be worth anywhere close to $13.3 million.

In electing not to make the offer to Jackson, the Nationals essentially are acknowledging they don't intend to make much of an effort to re-sign the right-hander and are content to seek a No. 5 starter elsewhere.

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St. Louis therapy dog makes good on NLCS wager, reps Nationals gear

St. Louis therapy dog makes good on NLCS wager, reps Nationals gear

Friendly wagers are one of the best parts of sports. They're even more fun when they involve two very good boys. 

Thor, a black lab therapy dog from Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, challenged Tabby, a German Shepherd therapy dog at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., to a friendly bet on the Nats-Cardinals NLCS best of seven series. The bet was settled not too long after it began.

Since the Nationals swept the Cardinals, Thor had to wear a Nationals' bandana to work, courtesy of Tabby.

Thor does not look very amused, but at least he was a very good sport.

Hopefully, Thor will decide to cheer on the Nationals in their first-ever World Series against the Astros!

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5 things to know about Nationals vs. Astros World Series

5 things to know about Nationals vs. Astros World Series

The Nationals swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS to reach the World Series for the first time in team history. Now, they meet a juggernaut of a Houston Astros team, who will host them in Game 1 at 8:08 p.m. on Tuesday night. Here are five things to know about the Astros in terms of how they match up with the Nats.

They're really good

There were an MLB-record four teams that won 100 or more games this season and the Astros were the best of all of them. They won 107 games in the regular season, the 13th-most by any team in MLB history. And they did so with the best run differential in the majors (+280). 

The Astros are a well-oiled machine with no obvious weakness. And not surprisingly, they have opened as heavy favorites. According to some sportsbooks, the Nats are the biggest underdogs in a World Series since the Colorado Rockies in 2007.

They can pitch, too

The Nationals' best strength is their starting pitching led by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez. Those four have combined for the best rotation ERA in this year's MLB postseason (2.04) and have been the key ingredient to Washington making it this far.

Starting pitching would be an advantage for the Nats over just about every team in baseball, but it is debatable with the Astros. Their top three of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke is just as good and even more accomplished. So far in October, Verlander has been solid, Greinke has been inconsistent and Cole has been downright unhittable. Cole has a 0.40 ERA in 22 2/3 innings with 32 strikeouts. 

They hit dingers

Houston had the third-most homers in the American League this season, but that is a deceiving stat because their home run total (288) also ranks third-best all-time. They just happened to hit that many in a year the Twins set the MLB record (307) and the Yankees hit the second-most ever (306). So, basically no team had ever hit more homers than the Astros did this season before 2019.

For Houston, it is a collective effort. They had 10 players hit double-digit homers, seven hit 20 or more and four with 30-plus. Alex Bregman led the way with 41, George Springer hit 39 and both Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel had 31 apiece.

The Astros aren't just good at hitting homers, either. They were first in the majors this season in batting average (.274), on-base percentage (.352), slugging percentage (.495), OPS (.848) and walks (645).

They are proven winners

While the Nationals are in the World Series for the first time and enjoying the ride, the Astros have grown used to playing during this time of year. They won the World Series in 2017 and made it to the ALCS last year. 

Their rise was sudden, from 70 wins in 2014, to now making the postseason four out of the last five years. But unlike the Nats, who experienced years of playoff heartbreak before breaking through, the Astros found early and lasting success, as if they were uniquely built for the playoff stage. 

They don't have history

Due to these teams playing in different leagues, they don't have much of a sample size to draw from in terms of how they match up directly. They haven't seen each other in interleague play since 2017 and many of the individual players don't have history, either.

Bregman, for instance, has never faced Scherzer before. He has a combined seven at-bats against Strasburg and Corbin. Trea Turner, Juan Soto and Victor Robles have never faced Verlander. Soto, in fact, only has seven at-bats against Astros pitchers and Greinke is the only starter he's faced.

The only experience many of the players will be able to draw from is spring training where the Nats and Astros share a facility. Seeing an ace like Scherzer or Cole for the first time in a World Series game would not be ideal. It could be something to watch early in games, as hitters adjust to the arm angles of pitchers they have never faced before.

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