It's over. Just moments after Yahoo!Sports.com's Tim Brown retweeted an unsubstantiated report which had the Washington Nationals and Prince Fielder agreeing on an 8-year deal, the national baseball writer spoke to actual sources who told him that the Detroit Tigers had emerged as the mystery team, swooping in late and out of nowhere to sign the 27-year-old first baseman to a 9-year/$214M dollar deal. Though Washington's front office downplayed their interest and the possibility of the big free agent landing in the nation's capital throughout the winter, they were thought to be alone atop the market of interested suitors just hours before the news of the actual deal broke.
As CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) is reporting on the Twitter machine in the aftermath of the announcement, the, "Nationals and a 3rd mystery team were in strong," so they were in it until the end. Instead of adding the big, slugging free agent first baseman, the Nationals will now hope the Adam LaRoche is healthy, or they'll go with Michael Morse at first as they did last season when LaRoche went down with a torn labrum and rotator cuff damage in his shoulder. D.C. GM Mike Rizzo signed the 32-year-old LaRoche to a two-year/$16M dollar deal last winter, and has said repeatedly that he expects a return to form from the first baseman.
"We just want [LaRoche] to have his career norms, .265 [AVG], 25 [HR's], 85-100 RBI's and play great defense," Rizzo said in a late-December MLB Network Radio interview, "We feel that his shoulder is rehabbed. He's 100% and talking to him just recently, he feels great and he's ready to contribute [for] us in 2012." Will Washington attempt to acquire the center fielder and leadoff man they've talked of wanting all winter? Will they wait to find a free agent in 2013? The Nats are already moving on, they announced this morning that they'll introduce Gio Gonzalez to the D.C. press corps tomorrow afternoon. A bench bat? A veteran reliever? WIll the Nats make any more moves, or is the Hot Stove season over for the Nationals?