Why Won't The Washington Nationals And Prince Fielder Rumors Die?

32-year-old first baseman Adam LaRoche is expected to be 100% recovered from surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff damage to his left shoulder and it's assumed he'll be ready to go when Spring Training begins. LaRoche has one year and $8 million dollars (plus a $1M dollar buyout) left on his 2-year/$16 million dollar deal with the Nationals. In an article by MLB.com's Bill Ladson earlier this winter entitled, "LaRoche getting closer to baseball activities", LaRoche told the Nats beat writer that,"... the Nationals didn't promise that he would play every day at the position next season," but the Nationals have downplayed their interest in any of the big name first baseman available all winter...

Asked by former D.C. GM and current radio host Jim Bowden, during an MLB Network Radio interview in early November, if it was safe to assume the Nats wouldn't get involved in the markets for any of the big name position players like Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, Rizzo told the MLB Network Radio host, "I think that's a safe assumption. Things can change rapidly in this business. If a spot were to become available because of a trade if you trade a shortstop or a first baseman type of thing then you may be in that market place, but as it stands right now today in November, we feel that we're set at shortstop, second base and first base."

So Adam LaRoche is expected to be the first baseman when the season starts, correct? "That is correct," Rizzo said in an interview this past Friday, but just as he had in previous interviews, the GM refused to completely rule out the possibility of additional moves taking place, telling reporters, " ... looking at all aspects and if something bigger that's acquire-able is something that helps our ballclub and that fits for us in the long-term we'll certainly look into doing something like that."

When FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi wrote about the current state of the MLB Hot Stove on Sunday in an article entitled, "Offseason twists to continue into 2012", the Nats remained in the Prince Fielder discussion with Mr. Morosi mentioning the Mariners, Orioles, Cubs and Rangers as potential suitors for Scott Boras' 27-year-old slugger before adding that, "We can’t rule out the Nationals, who have a strong relationship with Boras,":

"Washington’s acquisition of Gio Gonzalez should improve the team’s chances of signing Fielder; by acquiring a low-salaried starter, there is more money left to sign a big bat."

ESPN.com's Buster Olney too refused to rule the Nationals out of the Fielder market, even as he acknowledged Rizzo's comments from Friday night, writing Saturday morning under the heading, "Take it for what it's worth", that, "There is a broad assumption among a lot of baseball executives that eventually, Prince Fielder's most attractive offer will come from the Nationals," who could still use a bat after they were able to add lock up a young, affordable "rotation core," with the addition of Gio Gonzalez to a staff that already includes right-handers Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann."

FOXSports.com's Mr. Morosi suggests in his article that, "If Fielder remains unsigned after a few more weeks," we should, "prepare for the rumblings that he might have no choice but to take a short-term, huge-dollar deal," and St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Joe Strauss draws the same conclusion at the end of his own article today entitled, "'Rarity' Fielder remains unsigned", in which he examines the contents of the so-called "Boras Binder" on Fielder and concludes that, "His age creates an interesting detour that this market could take for Fielder,":

"... the shorter, higher-priced deal. Fielder could take a five-year deal with a higher average value than Pujols' $25.4 million, still set a record and reach free agency again at 32, Pujols' age next season."

That way the once-in-a-decade player that Boras describes would be available to the highest bidder twice in the decade."

Could the Nationals ink Fielder to a five-year deal worth $127-$130M and get Fielder in what should be his prime years from age 27-32? The last time Washington added a big middle of the order bat they did so because Adam Dunn didn't find the long-term deal he wanted on the free agent market...For another day until Boras and Fielder find the deal they want, the Washington Nationals remain a possibility, no matter how vociferously the Nats deny that they're interested...

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