The headlines continue to roll in…
The Washington Nationals have emerged as a favorite to sign free agent first baseman Prince Fielder.
The Washington Nationals are prepared to go into the 2012 season with Adam LaRoche at first base — and expect to do so.
The Washington Nationals are going to do some “subtle” things the rest of this offseason to fill out their roster and if they were going to “dip their toe” into the Prince Fielder waters, it’s a decision they’d have made early on in the offseason and it’d take something “extraordinary,” for LaRoche not to be the team’s first baseman this year.
The Washington Nationals are believed by rival executives to be the ultimate landing spot for Prince Fielder.
Each day, it seems, brings another story linking the Nationals to Fielder. Monday morning, that story was from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt, who covered Fielder for the past seven years in Milwaukee. The story, linked in the first line of this entry, sourced an MLB official as saying that word is spreading within the industry that Washington has emerged as the favorite in the Fielder sweepstakes. The industry around the Nationals, it seems, has made up it’s mind.
So what do we make of all of the persistent linking of the Nationals and Fielder when Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has said everything but “No,” when asked both directly and indirectly about the slugger?
According to team sources, the party line remains the same: Unless the price — specifically in years — drops, the Nationals are unlikely to be that landing spot.
All of the reasons for the Nationals to persistently come up remain the same:
— The relationship between ownership and the front office with Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, is a good one. Any meeting between the two sides could be about Fielder, sure. It could also be about any one of the five other big name Boras clients already on their 40-man roster.
— The Nationals have a need for a left-handed bat and every team would love to have Fielder’s power in their lineup.
— They shocked the industry last year by doling out $126 million over seven years to another Boras client, Jayson Werth — proving that they have the cash and aren’t afraid to use it when they feel it’s necessary — and they’re poised to become true contenders in the very near future with young talent all over the field.
And until Fielder signs on the dotted line with a team, nothing will be out of the question and no doors will be completely closed to him.
All of the reasons why locking up Fielder long term may not make sense for Washington right now also remain the same:
— They have two capable first basemen (LaRoche and Michael Morse).
— They have a power left-hander waiting in the wings of the major leagues in Bryce Harper.
— They have a franchise player in third baseman Ryan Zimmerman who’ll be needing a hefty contract extension in short order if they want to keep him around after 2013. They also will have to keep in mind that all of that young talent — Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Morse, etc. — could also be extension candidates in the very near future and the money for that will also have to come from somewhere.
All that’s completely certain at this point is this: It’s January 2 and the 2011-2012 offseason’s second-biggest free agent is still on the market. Stay tuned.