WASHINGTON DC - DECEMBER 15: Jayson Werth #28 of the Washington Nationals speaks as he is introduced to the media on December 15 2010 at Nationals Park in Washington DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
• Why Haven't The Nats Signed Prince Fielder Chatter: Why haven't the Washington Nationals signed Prince Fielder yet? Because they don't have to. Time and again this winter, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo's said the Nats are perfectly comfortable with a surgically-repaired Adam LaRoche at first and Michael Morse as a Plan B if LaRoche isn't back to full-strength. The Nationals finally have the upper hand Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell argued yesterday in a chat with fans.
"Because the Nats don't need Fielder, that should (finally) put them in the driver's seat in a negotiation," the WaPost writer said, and in answering another reader's question, he said that, "... because Fielder is not a 'fit' for the Nats position needs and because the N.L. has no DH, he should not be worth nearly as much to the Nats as he would be to the proper A.L. team."
Desperate to establish themselves as a legitimate destination for future free agents last winter, Washington went all out to bring Jayson Werth to the nation's capital, offering more money and a longer deal than the outfielder was going to find anywhere else. The Nationals needed a right fielder, saw an opportunity to add a piece they felt could be part of a future division winner and they overpaid to get it, a decision that looks like a bad one after one year of the seven-year deal, but Werth's first season in D.C. will be all-but-forgotten if he's doing his part to contribute when Washington makes its first postseason appearance.
The Nationals believe that the 80-81 team that finished in 3rd place in the NL East will be improved even without the addition of a big power bat like Fielder's. D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said as much in a recent interview with reporters following the acquisition of the Gio Gonzalez, the top-of-the-rotation arm they were looking for last winter but didn't find until now. "I think with the normal maturation of our good core young players," Rizzo said, "I think they're only going to get better. I think that hopefully we have a healthier season out of the gate. Hopefully Ryan Zimmerman is there for the full complement of games. We hope that Adam LaRoche is there and has a typical Adam LaRoche season. We hope that Jayson Werth has a typical Jayson Werth season.
"We feel that there will be improvements in [Wilson] Ramos and [Ian Desmond] at short and [Danny Espinosa] at second base," the general manager continued, "We feel that we're going to get an uptick in offense just from those players improving and getting to their career norms. I like our rotation. I like our bullpen. I think that we're going to play better, smarter, more fundamental baseball. Davey [Johnson's] going to manage this team as good as any manager in baseball, so I feel good and I feel optimistic about where we're at. We're never satisfied. I always see places that need an improvement. But, with that said, we like our ballclub and our goal is to be playing meaningful games at the end of the season in September and beyond."
The Texas Rangers are believed to be interested in Prince Fielder, but only if they don't sign 25-year-old Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' right-hander Yu Darvish. If the Rangers sign Darvish, and they have until 1/18 to do so, there aren't too many people out there who think they'll add Prince Fielder too after spending $51.7M on the posting fee and potentially $75-to-$100M more on Darvish's actual contract.
"Unless the Nats get wind — and not from Scott [Boras] — that the Darvish deal is dying, they should sit tight," the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell wrote yesterday, "The Cubs just traded for a young 1st baseman. Seattle clearly doesn't want a Prince-sized contract. Toronto has never spent much. The Nats should just wait. There's no rush and there's no need. There may, however, be an opportunity."
• Twitter: ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) wrote this afternoon that he spoke to agents about the situation in Seattle and, "According to one of those agents, Prince Fielder-to-Seattle speculation is 'extremely overblown.'"
• The Last Nats' Big Middle-of-the-Order Bat: Washington had no illusion they were a postseason contender the last time the Nationals signed a slugging first baseman and a big middle-of-the-order bat. Another GM was making the calls then, but a similar situation led to Adam Dunn signing with Washington. Adam Dunn didn't want to go to the AL, believing he could still play the field, and there were no suitors in the American League willing to give more than the Nationals were offering.
"The opportunities [as a free agent] weren't exactly what I wanted them to be," Dunn told MLB.com's Bill Ladson at the time in an article entitled, "Nats sign Dunn to two-year, $20M deal", but joining the Nationals provided an opportunity to help build something, "I get a chance and hopefully turn the program around." Hopefully, if Prince Fielder ends up signing in D.C., the money he gets will be enough that he won't feel the need to let the Nationals fans know they were his only legitimate option...
• How Serious Are The Rangers?:
MLB.com writer T.R. Sullivan wrote last week, in an article entitled, "Daniels on Napoli, Fielder, Bullpen", that Rangers' GM Jon Daniels was saying that, "... the Rangers are not interested in free agent first baseman Prince Fielder." Over the weekend, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) wrote that the Rangers, "... still have one eye on Prince, but their No. 1 goal is to sign Darvish. if they get Yu, chance for Fielder lessens." Chicago Tribune writer Phil Rogers wrote that the Rangers are, "... studying a late run at Prince Fielder as a contingency if it deems Darvish's demands too high."
Dallas Morning News' writer Evan Grant wrote that the Rangers might benefit from the lack of suitors for Fielder in an article entitled, "Deadlocked slugger Prince Fielder is enticing to Rangers", and in doing so offered a possible solution for how Texas could sign Fielder and also ink center fielder Josh Hamilton to a long-term deal. The proposed deals were posted in another article today entitled, "How the Rangers could ink Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder to long-term deals." The contract he proposes for Fielder is an 8-year deal with 6-years guaranteed which includes a player opt-out after four years and a team opt-out after five. You can read the details HERE.