At what point do you start to put stock in all the various rumors out there tying the Washington Nationals to the biggest bat remaining on the free agent market? "Still, there is an expectation that Washington's big money this offseason is targeted toward Prince Fielder," New York Post writer Joel Sherman wrote back in mid-October. "Take it for what it's worth", ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote just last week, "There is a broad assumption among a lot of baseball executives that eventually, Prince Fielder's most attractive offer will come from the Nationals." "[Prince] Fielder, 27, is the Nationals’ primary target, at least among offensive players, sources said," FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote toward the end of November.
One reporter after another this winter has written that they hear the 27-year-old soon-to-be former Milwaukee Brewers' slugger is the Nats' top target in spite of the fact that they have 31-year-old Adam LaRoche under contract and owed $8 million dollars for 2012...
The Nationals, meanwhile, have repeatedly denied that Fielder's on their radar, as D.C. GM Mike Rizzo did again recently when he told MLB Network Radio host Mike Ferrin that the Nats have, "... more or less decided that Adam [LaRoche] is going to be our first baseman, unless something extraordinary, out of the ordinary happened that's how we're going to go to Spring Training."
Still, just last week an anonymous player with the Nationals told CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, "'We're in the market. We're still shooting for him,'" referring to Fielder, while Baltimore Sun writer Dan Connolly wrote this past weekend that the free agent first baseman and his agent had recently visited the Washington/Baltimore area on their tour of MLB cities without making a stop in Baltimore, "... meaning they likely spoke with representatives of the Lerner family, principal owners of the Washington Nationals," Mr. Connolly wrote.
And now there are rumors coming out of Fielder's soon-to-be-former home. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt wrote this morning, in an article entitled, "Nationals a favorite for Fielder", that, "An MLB official told me over the weekend that word is spreading in the industry that the Washington Nationals have emerged as a favorite to sign free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder."
Mr. Haudricourt too points out that, "For public record, the Nationals have played down any interest they might have in Fielder." His source, the Journal-Sentinel reporter wrote, "... wasn't sure the Nationals would go the eight to 10 years that Boras is seeking for Fielder, however. They might prefer to go shorter on the deal but as long as Boras is able to match or exceed the $25.4 million annual salary that Pujols is getting from the Angels, I'm guessing he will be happy."
Boras, however, recently dismissed the notion that his client will settle for a shorter deal when it came up in another report.
In an article with ESPN Chicago.com's Bruce Levine, the agent addressed the idea that they might settle for a shorter deal with higher average annual value than Albert Pujols got from the Los Angeles Angels. "Not only is that inaccurate and delusional," Boras said, "but it seems that some people have gotten into their New Year's Eve stash just a little bit early this year." If there are other suitors out there, they're not getting mentioned much. Will something "extraordinary" or "out of the ordinary" happen this winter that results in Prince Fielder ending up in the nation's capital?
• Other Nats/Prince Links:
• "Washington is always regarded as a likely buyer when it comes to a Scott Boras client. But the Nationals are a little gun-shy after last year’s big purchase, Boras client Jayson Werth (seven years, $126 million), who endured a terrible 2011. Plus, they owe Adam LaRoche $8 million for 2012." - "Albert Pujols showed he's human" - Ken Davidoff, New York Newsday
• "[Prince] Fielder will probably sign with the Washington Nationals, or maybe the desperate-for-attention Chicago Cubs, or maybe even the Toronto Blue Jays." - "Without Fielder, 2012 Mariners are just Felix and garlic fries" - Steve Kelley, Seattle Times Newspaper
• "It's great that the Washington Nationals have a cast of exciting young arms and legs and they're coming off a fine season for them that would have been a failed season for the Phillies." - "With Phillies, talent more important than age" - Bob Brookover, Philly.com (ed. note - "Wait, sorry, that was just a Philly writer talking smack about the Nats. Nothing about Fielder there.")