Contrary to what many were thinking, ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote Saturday that he didn't see the Chicago Cubs' acquisition of first baseman Anthony Rizzo as an impediment to the team's pursuit of 27-year-old slugger Prince Fielder. "Rizzo costs pennies and Prince Fielder costs tens of millions," the ESPN.com writer noted, "so the acquisition of Rizzo really has zero impact on whether the Cubs were to pursue Fielder." The ESPN analyst says he sees Seattle as the team with, "... the most willingness to pay big."
The question there, as it has been all along is whether or not Fielder wants to play for a team that's not considered a contended even with the offensive contributions of the Milwaukee Brewers' '02 1st Round pick. ESPN.com's Mr. Olney's last comments on the rumored talks between the Washington Nationals, Fielder and his agent Scott Boras came Friday night, when he wrote on Twitter (@Buster_ESPN) that, "There is great skepticism about a very long-term deal with Fielder in some corners of the Nats' [organization]. Owners' votes count the most, of course."
Mr. Olney's colleague at ESPN, and the former Nationals' GM, Jim Bowden too pointed to the decision-making process in Washington as the holdup in what he said were "serious discussions" with Scott Boras about Fielder. In a discussion of the situation on the one-time Nats' GM's MLB Network Radio show he said, "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."
Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell wrote about the Nationals' relative inactivity just before the trade for Gio Gonzalez was made and suggested, in the article entitled, "Nationals have more cash coming in, but refuse to spend it", that what was slowing the decision-making process in Washington was the fact that, "... real-estate gurus are giving the baseball lifers their opinion again on the value of ballplayers and the wisdom of deals." When the general manager who "... has taken your pitching staff from the 28th-best ERA in baseball (5.00) to seventh-best (3.58)," and restocked the barren organization inherited from Montreal wants to trade some of those pitchers for a top-of-the-rotation arm, the WaPost writer argued, you do it, which the Nationals did.
The process of getting it done, however, is difficult according to the Washington Post writer because rather than trust the baseball people, they have them, "Start from zero and build an ironclad logical case, full of slides and graphics, so Ted will cut the check. Many who’ve worked for the Nats say the same thing, in the same words: Their toughest negotiation isn’t with agent Scott Boras but with Ted Lerner." Scott Boras, of course, has made clear that he thinks the negotiations for free agents like Prince Fielder should take place with interested teams' owners.
"I think that these are ownership decisions," Boras said during an MLB Network Radio interview before the Winter Meetings, "There are certainly owners who come out and meet with us and talk to us about their franchise and go through things. We're rather methodical about this. The player wants to hear as much information as he can and certainly Prince wants to make a good decision for he and his family." The Nationals, according to a source quoted by Baltimore Sun writer Dan Connolly and later according to sources quoted by MLB.com's Bill Ladson, did meet with Fielder and his agent recently, most likely when they traveled to visit interested owners around the majors.
Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin, in his own MLB Network Radio interview last week agreed that, "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 WaPost writer, however, told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy he thought Rizzo was likely part of any discussions. "I don't think Ted Lerner's going to cut out his GM from this discussion," Mr. Sheinin said, "especially when a guy like Mike Rizzo has such a strong relationship with Scott Boras. I don't mean to suggest that Rizzo's not involved at all, but Boras goes where the money is."
Rizzo, in Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak's article entitled, "Nats GM Mike Rizzo says nothing has changed with regard to Prince Fielder", would only say that in spite of reports that the Nationals were the frontrunners for Fielder, "... we haven’t gone beyond where we were at since the winter meetings." Rizzo also pointed to Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse as the reasons he's repeatedly said, "We feel that we’re settled at that position."
Whether Rizzo maintains this position to calm expectations as a deal is discussed as the former Nats' GM suggested yesterday, or because the Nationals are really planning to stick with LaRoche or aren't willing to give Fielder the long-term deal he wants and haven't budged since first meeting with the first baseman's agent, who knows?
If the Nats actually did make an offer, "we haven't gone beyond where we were at since the winter meetings," could just mean they're waiting for the asking price to come down to what they're willing to offer. The lack of any other competitive offer could leave the Nationals as the frontrunners, or they could be getting used to drive up the price as some have suggested in every free agent discussion involving the Nats since they first showed a willingness to spend with the offers to Mark Teixeira and the deal with Jayson Werth...
Or maybe Fielder and Boras are just waiting to see if another suitor emerges. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) did say, after all, that the Rangers, "still have one eye on Prince," though a deal with Yu Darvish would "lessen" the possibility of Texas getting involved...