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STEVE DESHAZO: Here’s an odd request to Redskins, Nationals: Don’t deal

Maybe it’s our ADD-shortened attention spans, or a Twitter-fueled news cycle that has shrunk from 24 hours to 24 seconds. But we’re always looking for someone to do something.

Sometimes, though, standing pat makes far more sense.

Oh, inaction always carries consequences. The “fiscal cliff” is looming. So is a second cancellation of an NHL season in eight years unless owners and the players union begin real negotiations soon.

And sometimes, change is necessary. Virginia’s football desperately needed a staff shakeup after a 4–8 season. After Virginia Tech’s worst season in two decades (6–6), Frank Beamer is reportedly considering one, too, while mulling whether firing play-caller Mike O’Cain could hasten quarterback Logan Thomas’ departure for the NFL.

But a couple of successful Washington franchises (how often have those words been said lately?) shouldn’t be too quick to pull any triggers—not when they’re in rare positions of strength.

The Redskins shouldn’t even consider trading Kirk Cousins (at least for now), and the Nationals should hold the line on their two-year contract offer to Adam LaRoche.

The hot topic around Redskins Park these days has switched from Robert Griffin III’s sprained right knee to Cousins’ hypothetical trade value. Former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly, now an NFL Network analyst, thinks Washington likely could get a second-round pick for Cousins, a rookie who has exactly one NFL start under his belt.

That’s more of an indictment of the lack of quality quarterbacks in the NFL than of Cousins’ skills. But the reason Cousins could be a key asset is that the Redskins mortgaged their future to trade up and draft Griffin, and they’re facing a second $18 million salary cap penalty in the off-season.

Despite their five straight wins, the Redskins still have holes to fill, most notably in the defensive secondary and along the offensive line. They don’t have a first-round draft pick in 2013 or ’14, and they’ll be bargain shoppers in free agency.

If, like Matt Schaub and Kevin Kolb before him, Cousins fetches a high draft pick, the Redskins would have more off-season flexibility—but at what price?

Like Michael Vick, Griffin’s going to continue to get hurt. He’s already left two games—one with a concussion, one with a knee sprain. As much as Kyle Shananan tries to protect him, Griffin’s wide-open style lends itself to risk.

Cousins is already one of the NFL’s most sought-after commodities: a solid backup quarterback. And he’s relatively cheap, with two years left on his rookie contract.

But unless some desperate team offers the Redskins the moon and stars for Cousins, why trade someone they know they’ll need? If Rex Grossman is the answer, they don’t want to hear the question.

Meanwhile, the Nationals would love to have LaRoche back at first base in 2013 and ’14 after he set career bests with 33 home runs and 100 RBIs in 2012—plus won a gold glove and led Washington to its first division title.

But LaRoche, a free agent, wants a three-year contract that would take him to the brink of age 36—a time when non-steroid-fueled players tend to decline. (Think Alex Rodriguez, and keep an eye on Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in the next few years.)

After losing Hamilton to the Angels in free agency, Texas is said to covet another left-handed power hitter like LaRoche. Seattle’s another reported suitor.

But if the market’s so hot, why doesn’t LaRoche have an actual offer?

If LaRoche does sign elsewhere, the Nationals could use Michael Morse at first base in 2013 after he filled in competently for an injured LaRoche in 2011. Washington also drafted power-hitting Anthony Rendon in the first round in 2011, and rumor has it he could be ready to play third base in the major leagues by 2014—with Ryan Zimmerman possibly switching to first.

So there are options. With big contract extensions due to Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond in the coming years—and no imminent settlement of their financial dispute with MASN—even the deep-pocketed Nationals don’t want to be buried under a crippling contract.

The Nationals have been relatively quiet this off-season, essentially replacing No. 4 starter Edwin Jackson with Dan Haren in their only major move. Chances are, LaRoche will realize his best bet will be to return to D.C.

The Nationals have the luxury of waiting on him.

Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443

sdeshazo@freelancestar.com

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