ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 14: Prince Fielder #28 of the Milwaukee Brewers looks on against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 14, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
C'mon? You didn't really think that D.C. GM Mike Rizzo restating his position on the Prince Fielder rumors, (as he did yesterday in Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak's article entitled, "Nats GM Mike Rizzo says nothing has changed with regard to Prince Fielder"), would actually stop the rumors that the Nationals were the frontrunners for Fielder did you? Even though the Nats' general manager told the Washington Times' reporter that he was comfortable going with Adam LaRoche at first for the Nationals in 2012 with Michael Morse available as a backup, and even after he said, "There are a lot of comments that we’re the frontrunners, and I don’t know where that comes from because we haven’t gone beyond where we were at since the winter meetings," the rumors continued today.
ESPN.com's Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) wrote about Washington on Twiiter this morning as if they were still seriously considering adding the hard-hitting 27-year-old slugger...
"There is great skepticism about a very long-term deal with Fielder in some corners of the Nats' [organization]," Mr. Olney wrote, "Owners' votes count the most, of course." The Chicago Cubs acquisition of 1B Anthony Rizzo in a deal today with San Diego eliminated one more name from the list of rumored suitors for Fielder, leaving Seattle, Texas and Washington on most people's lists. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) reinforced what others have said when he wrote this morning that the Rangers' interest in Fielder is based on how the negotations with right-hander Yu Darvish play out.
"Rangers still have one eye on Prince," Mr Heyman noted, "but their No. 1 goal is to sign Darvish. If they get Yu, chance for Fielder lessens." In spite of all the Nationals' GM's done to downplay the Nationals' involvement in ongoing negotiations, if the Rangers fall out of the running there won't be many options for Fielder this winter, barring the seemingly inevitable entry of a mystery team into the mix. Recent reports (from anonymous sources, of course) have confirmed long-rumored meetings between Boras, Fielder and the Nationals' owners when the agent and his client traveled to visit interested MLB teams.
In spite of the Nats' GM's denials, players, rival executives and scouts all say the nation's capital is high on the list of potential destinations for Fielder. And now the former Nationals' general manager who hired Mike Rizzo before Rizzo replaced him is saying Washington's deeply involved in negotiations. "He's saying all the right things as a GM," Jim Bowden said on the MLB Network Radio show Inside Pitch, "You've got LaRoche as the first baseman. He signed there as a free agent. He's got another year on the contract. Two things you can't do in his situation. No.1: Raise the expectations for the fans of D.C. that they're getting Fielder, so that you now set them up for a letdown in case you can't afford him and you don't end up getting him and you don't sign him. You want to lower those expectations.
"No.2: If you don't get him, you don't want LaRoche to sit there and say, 'What? You don't like me? You don't care about me?' you know, 'What about me? I signed here to play first base?' So you do that to calm everybody down. You don't want this to be something that's in the media 24/7." (ed. note - "Oops. Sorry.") "Here's the problem," the former Nationals' general manager said, building momentum and getting worked up, "The problem is, they are in serious negotiations with Scott Boras, which they can't deny.
"They have made offers, multiple offers to Prince Fielder, which they cannot deny. They know the difference that he would make in that franchise, making them an instant playoff contender. They know that. Ted Lerner, the owner, is 86-years-old, he wants to win, and he'd like to win now and the Lerner family would like to see him win. Here's the biggest problem: Mike Rizzo's prepared to step up and get this thing done, but this is Ted Lerner's baseball team, and they do everything by a vote with a board of directors and the board of directors are mixed."
They just made a huge 7-year/$126 million dollar investment in Jayson Werth last winter, the former Nationals' GM suggested, and the board is wary of making another long-term commitment, but as the former Nats' GM explains it, "What they have to understand is Fielder's different than Werth. Werth was a big gamble because of age. He was a big gamble because of ballpark. He was a big gamble because of health and the fact that he wasn't the type of player that a Prince Fielder is, and that's the difference. And if you're going to sit there and give seven years to Werth, you certainly have to step up and give eight years to Prince Fielder."
Bowden, citing the Cubs' deal for the young first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, says he's crossed Chicago off his list and says he firmly believes that the Washington Nationals are, "... now the leaders and the frontrunners to get [Fielder]." Which is the same thing that Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt started the week reporting, prompting the questions to D.C. GM Mike Rizzo, who once again issued the same denials he has all winter...