Wire Taps: Quiet Washington Nationals Re-Emerge As Front Runners For Prince Fielder, Rangers Out/Not Out?

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 20: General Manager Mike Rizzo of the Washington Nationals talks to the media before the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Prince Fielder visited the nation's capital and met with the Washington Nationals' brass the last time he and his agent Scott Boras toured interested MLB cities according to several reports. The 27-year-old, 5'11'', 275 lb, left-handed hitting HR threat's representatives reportedly met with the Nats' owners last week in Arizona, but the last public statements on Washington's behalf came from Mike Rizzo in Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak's January 5th article entitled, "Nats GM Mike Rizzo says nothing has changed with regard to Prince Fielder", in which the general manager acknowledged reports which said the Nationals' were the front runners for Fielder but wondered where they were coming from since the team hadn't changed their stance on the free agent slugger since early December.

Eight days after the Lerners met with Fielder's agent at the Camelback Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona and two weeks after their GM's comments in the Washington Times, FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi (@JonMorosi) wrote last night after Texas signed 25-year-old right-hander Yu Darvish that the Rangers were unlikely to sign Fielder as well, at least at the current asking price. "Sources say #Rangers unlikely to outbid #Nationals for Prince Fielder," Mr. Morosi wrote in one tweet and though he wouldn't count Texas out, "The #Nationals are still viewed by many in the industry as the frontrunners to sign Prince Fielder," he concluded.

So why doesn't it feel like the Nationals are the front runners?

The Rangers are saying they're out. Sort of saying that at least. Rangers' GM Jon Daniel said, "'It's very unlikely,'" that Texas will continue to pursue Fielder as Ft. Worth Star-Telegram baseball writer Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) wrote on Twitter last night and the general manager reportedly told reporters, "'I don't expect that we'll do anything big the rest of the off-season.'" Dallas Morning News' baseball writer Evan Grant in an article entitled, "Rangers remain interested in Prince Fielder", wrote Wednesday night that the only way Fielder ends up a Rangers is if they two sides work out a 'creative' deal.

MLB.com's Rangers' beat writer T.R. Sullivan wrote that he'd talked to Texas' GM Jon Daniels "off camera", quoting the general manager in a blog post tonight entitled, "Daniels on Fielder", saying, "'I’m intimately aware of our budget and it’s very unlikely,'" they'll spend big on Fielder after spending $111.7 million on Darvish between the posting fee ($51.7) and the contract (6-year/$60M+ incentives) they agreed upon yesterday. In MLB.com's Mr. Sullivan's article on the press conference with the Rangers' brass entitled, "Only Yu? Rangers 'unlikely' to ink Prince", he quotes team president Nolan Ryan, however, who doesn't seem as willing to close the book on the idea of Fielder calling Arlington home. "'We'll just have to see where things go the rest of the winter and see what our opportunities are,'" Ryan says, "'I'm not sure we can predict anything at this time.'"

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt, who quoted sources weeks back saying the Nationals were the front runners for Fielder wondered last night in an article entitled, "Fielder to Rangers 'very unlikely'", if Washington was, "... once again the prohibitive favorite to sign Fielder, if they weren't in any event." The Nationals, however, have remained mum on the subject. They've said all winter that they're perfectly comfortable going into the 2012 season with Adam LaRoche at first and Michael Morse backing up if necessary. In spite of what they've said publicly though they're remained the front runners in many people's eyes.

Time and again the Nats' GM's refused to commit fully one way or another, saying they'll go with the LaRoche in the second year of his two-year deal, but will keep an open mind if, "... something bigger that's acquire-able is something that helps our ballclub and that fits for us in the long-term," as Rizzo said in an MLB Network Radio interview a few weeks back. The Nats have "... more or less decided that Adam [LaRoche] is going to be our first baseman," Rizzo said, "unless something extraordinary, out of the ordinary happened that's how we're going to go to Spring Training."

The Nationals have consistently refused to tip their hand, seemingly waiting for Fielder and Boras to come to them, but while they wait, and while they "patiently and aggressively" pursue the free agent behind the scenes as Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore's sources told him they have been all along, the Mariners, Cubs and Marlins continue to be mentioned as potential suitors only to have their own team executives express varying degrees of interest as well. What they say in public matters very little in the end. After all, after the Rangers' exec's comments last night, one of the first things FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi (@JonMorosi) tweeted this morning was that, "One rival executive believes the #Rangers will end up with Prince Fielder. 'They are experts at playing possum,' he said."

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