Have The Washington Nationals Been Quietly Pursuing Prince Fielder?

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 17: Prince Fielder #28 of the Milwaukee Brewers walks back to the dugout after striking out in the first inning of game one of a double header against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on April 17, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The morning that the winner of the Yu Darvish derby was announced, all signs pointed north toward the Toronto Blue Jays, who had reportedly bid between $40-$50 million dollars to win the rights to negotiate a deal with the 25-year-old Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' right-hander. "While speculation has run amok Toronto won Darvish bid," CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) wrote that morning, "remember: VERY few people actually know. No guarantees." That night, the Texas Rangers, who were one of two teams everyone had in the race, were revealed as the winners of the posting process, and in spite of the fact they paid $51.7 million for the posting fee and will have to spend another $75-$77 million to sign Darvish, CBSSports.com's Mr. Heyman wrote the next day that Texas was still, "... a threat to win [Prince] Fielder, too."

"The Fielder pursuit has been pretty quiet," the CBSSports.com writer noted, "but other teams believed to have some interest in Fielder include the Mariners, Nationals, Cubs, Orioles, Marlins and incumbent Brewers," in addition to the Rangers. Last week, in an article entitled, "Notebook: Rangers might grab Fielder with kick at the finish", Mr. Heyman placed the Nationals fifth on a list of potential suitors for the 27-year-old slugger who finished the 2011 season in Milwaukee with a .299/.415/.566 slash, 36 doubles and 38 HR's. "They've gone for the home run before," Mr. Heyman wrote, "and no one would be shocked if they made a late play here."

The Nationals' top target this winter was Mark Buehrle, outside of that chatter, most of the talk has been about trades or attempts to sign bench options, but since they missed out on Buehrle when he signed with Miami, and in spite of the presence of both Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse on the roster, the CBSSports.com writer speculated that, "... GM Mike Rizzo has struck before," as he did with the out-of-nowhere Jayson Werth signing last December. Will the Nats' general manager shock the baseball world again by bringing Prince Fielder to the nation's capital?

In his latest update this morning, in an article entitled, "Mariners, Nats, O's among teams eyeing Prince", the CBSSports.com writer listed the Nationals as one of eight teams with interest in Fielder. "The Nationals have been keeping a low profile on their pursuit and it's unknown where they stand but signs suggest they do have Fielder on their radar," Mr. Heyman writes. Adam LaRoche is owed $9M dollars on his two-year deal, but Mr. Heyman writes, "LaRoche is a small expense compared to Fielder."

When the idea of the Nationals entering the market for a first baseman was mentioned to LaRoche by MLB.com's Bill Ladson in an article entitled, "LaRoche getting closer to baseball activities", in which Mr. Ladson wrote that, "LaRoche said the Nationals didn't promise that he would play every day at the position next season," LaRoche was quoted saying, "'Obviously, anything can happen. That's their decision,'" but, referring to his contract the 32-year-old first baseman said, "'That's a pretty big investment for someone who is not playing. I don't know what direction they would go. Obviously, anything is possible.'"

When the possibility of the Nats pursuing Prince Fielder came up during the recently-concluded Winter Meetings at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas, Mr. Ladson on Twitter (@washingnats) wrote on Twitter that, "I was also informed that Prince Fielder is not a target for the #Nats. They already have Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse at first base." Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) quoted a Nats source who said, "'That's not even a good lie,'" when the idea of the Nationals pursuing Fielder or Albert Pujols came up.

Mr. Heyman's not alone in listing the Nationals as potential suitors for Prince. Both FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal among others have written recently that the Nats were in on the soon-to-be-(potentially)-former Brewer. "Some executives still expect Fielder to hear from the Nationals," Mr. Rosenthal wrote in an article entitled, "Fielder should be Cubs' player to lose", before referring to the Nats as, "the preferred ATM of the Scott Boras Corporation in recent years."

The Nats, "... keep getting linked to Fielder despite denials from Nationals execs that they're actively involved," ESPN.com's Jayson Stark wrote in an early December article entitled, "Big deals at winter meetings in Big D?" Until Fielder signs somewhere, with all the Boras' clients on Washington's roster, the rumors are likely to continue. Is there any truth to them though?

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