TOKYO - DECEMBER 15: Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers visits Minamisuna Junior High School as part of the Major League Baseball (MLB) International Ambassador program to promote the game of baseball on December 15 2010 in Tokyo Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
Baltimore Sun writer Dan Connolly speculated this weekend, in an article entitled, "Boras and Fielder did not meet with Angelos on free agent tour", that since "an industry source" told him Prince Fielder and Scott Boras had visited the Washington/Baltimore area without seeing Orioles' owner Peter Angelos, "... they likely spoke with representatives of the Lerner family, principal owners of the Washington Nationals." MASNSports.com's Phil Wood wrote yesterday, in an article entitled, "I wouldn't be surprised", that he knows, "... Fielder and agent Scott Boras met with Rizzo and Lerner on their recent tour," and wouldn't be surprised if the 27-year-old slugger ended up in D.C." The Nationals, of course, have remained mum on the subject, with Nats' general manager Mike Rizzo consistently downplaying the rumors without closing the door on the possibility.
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote about the Nationals and Fielder on Monday...
... in an article entitled, "Money no issue as Nats pursue Fielder", and came to the conclusion that though the Nats might prefer a shorter-term deal and Fielder and Boras will of course seek the maximum amount, "The solution for both sides — in fact, for any Fielder suitor — might be an opt-out clause after three or four years," which would give Washington a game-changing bat and give the hard-hitting first baseman a chance to reenter free agency in three or four years.
On Twitter this morning, the FOXSports.com writer (@Ken_Rosenthal) discussed how an unnamed baseball "exec" had objected to the idea of an "opt-out" working since it only benefits the player. "Exec's point is that club assumes all risk. If player performs, he's gone. If player fails or is injured, he won't opt out," Mr. Rosenthal writes, "In any case, many in industry believe that Boras wants opt-out for Prince. From their perspective, makes all the sense in the world." Why does it make sense? The bow-tied FOXSports.com reporter later explained in a series of tweets:
"A mutual one after 3 or 5 years COULD benefit both sides. Team could back-load deal and pay massive buyout if it opts out, maybe even year's salary. That way, it would eat only one year's salary as opposed to multiple years while getting maximum benefit (through lower salaries) from early years of deal. No idea whether Boras/Fielder would go for such a concept."
Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin appeared on the MLB Network Radio show Power Alley with Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy this morning, where the WaPost writer reiterated that we're unlikely to hear about any negotiations between the Nationals, Fielder and Boras if any discussions are taking place. "First of all," Mr. Sheinin said, "We have an owner in Washington, Ted Lerner, who is essentially invisible. He doesn't do any media. He's barely seen in public, so there's this whole air of mystery around him and you know the way Scott [Boras] operates...If this is going on, it's going on largely between Scott Boras and Ted Lerner and we're not going to hear anything."
"The Nationals' baseball ops people are saying, 'We're not really in on him,' 'Not at these prices,' and yada yada, but the fact is this could be taking place above their heads if it's taking place at all. So, the fact that we're not hearing anything concrete out of Washington I don't think means anything either way." The Lerners, however, the Washington Post writer pointed out, "...have a history of jumping in on big-ticket items."
"They did it with Mark Teixeira a few years ago and ultimately didn't get him," Mr. Sheinin said, "but offered what was the highest AAV at the time and then they obviously jumped in on Jayson Werth last year and got him. And so, I think they're viewed as someone who's liable to do just about anything. And then the longer this thing goes on and Prince Fielder's available, I think that the Lerner's relationship with Boras and the fact that this guy could be the difference for the Nationals between contending and not contending and that history there, suggests that the longer it goes on, the more the Nationals are in it."
The last word from the Nationals, of course, came from D.C. GM Mike Rizzo in an MLB Network Radio interview last week in which he told host Mike Ferrin that the team planned on heading into Spring Training with a healthy Adam LaRoche at first base in the second year of the 2-year/$16M dollar deal he signed last winter unless something extraordinary or "out of the ordinary" happened. In spite of all the rumors, and apparent lack of suitors for Fielder, the Nationals haven't publicly said anything to lead one to believe they're in the mix for Fielder though one anonymous player and countless reports have them in the market. With an "invisible" owner and a leakproof front office, there probably won't be any confirmation until someone tweets that Fielder has signed somewhere. Until that time, the rumors will continue...