It doesn't take much to convince a Washington Nationals fan that Prince Fielder is a good fit at first base in the nation's capital. Just show them the following lineup: 1) Ian Desmond; 2) Jayson Werth; 3) Ryan Zimmerman; 4) Prince Fielder; 5) Michael Morse; 6) Bryce Harper; 7) Danny Espinosa; 8) Wilson Ramos.
(ed. note - "Though a certain portion of the audience will insist that Desmond's not a leadoff man, and another smaller segment will insist that Stephen Lombardozzi's supposed to be at second with Espinosa at short.") There is also a segment of the fan base willing to either ignore the existence of, or sit Adam LaRoche and his $8M dollar 2012 salary on the bench if they have to and they're willing to eat the majority of the second year of his two-year deal with the Nationals if necessary to make a trade to make room for Fielder at first...
A trade involving LaRoche is not happening. (Watch it happen now). LaRoche has zero trade value right now, and won't have any until he proves he's recovered from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder and clean up rotator cuff damage. Even healthy, he's not likely to bring much in return. The 32-year-old, 8-year veteran first baseman is expected to be 100% and ready for Spring Training after the shoulder issues limited LaRoche to 43 games and 117 plate appearances in 2011.
LaRoche told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore he would be ready for Spring Training in a December 5th article entitled, "Adam LaRoche is ‘100 percent,’ but the Nationals want insurance at first base", which also quoted Nats' Skipper Davey Johnson saying what the team needed was not a replacement for LaRoche but an insurance policy for him in the form of a right-handed bat who can fill in if necessary.
The last time rumors tying the Nats to Prince Fielder came up, both MLB.com's Bill Ladson (@washingnats) and the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) quoted team sources who told them rather bluntly that the rumors had no validity. But still, there were those rumors. Two weeks before the Winter Meetings, then-SI.com reporter Jon Heyman wrote in his preview of the free agent market that, "The Nationals, Mariners, Rangers, Orioles and Cubs are viewed as among the possibilities for Fielder.
"Fielder, meanwhile, has been pursued by a group believed to include the Cubs, Nationals, Rangers and Mariners," FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi wrote before the Winter Meetings in an article entitled, "Pujols, Fielder top free-agent market." Fielder, "... has been pursued by a group believed to include the Cubs, Nationals, Rangers and Mariners."
"The Nationals are showing serious interest in Fielder and view Cuban outfielder Yoennis Cespedes as a potential Plan B, according to major-league sources," Mr. Morosi's colleague, FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote the week before the Winter Meetings in an article entitled, "MLB: Nats show interest in Fielder, Cespedes." "Fielder, 27, is the Nationals’ primary target, at least among offensive players, sources said." ESPN.com's Jayson Stark was right about the fact that Mark Buehrle was the Nats' top target, he claimed Yoenis Cespedes was on their radar, and wrote in a December 4th article that the Nats, "... keep getting linked to Fielder despite denials from Nationals execs that they're actively involved."
As recently as this past Thursday CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, in an article entitled, "Notebook: Rangers might grab Fielder with kick at the finish", was speculating about the Nationals' interest, placing them 5th on a list of potential destinations and writing that the Nationals have, "... gone for the home run before, and no one would be shocked if they made a late play here. With Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche on the roster, it isn't the best fit. But they lost out on Mark Buehrle, and GM Mike Rizzo has struck before."
The four teams ahead of the Nats on Mr. Heyman's list are the Blue Jays, Mariners, Cubs and Rangers. The Rangers, the rumors have it, could sign Fielder to counter the Angels' addition of Albert Pujols, but the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) quoted Rangers' president Nolan Ryan saying that the, "#Rangers are not in on Prince Fielder." The Cubs are supposed to have interest, but St. Louis Post-Dispatch Cardinals beat writer Joe Strauss wrote on Twitter (@JoeStrauss) that he was, "Informed by well-placed source Cubs' alleged interest in Prince only a 'smokescreen' and he may ultimately take shorter-term deal." Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo too wrote on Sunday that he wasn't sure about Chicago's interest, noting that, "... as of this writing the Cubs were still in the mode of, let’s not spend until we’re ready to spend and right now we’re not ready to spend."
The Blue Jays are said to be interested in Fielder, but they're also rumored to be the winners of the Yu Darvish sweepstakes. Are they going to sign Fielder too and try to make a real run in the AL East? FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote this week, in an article entitled, "Fielder should be Cubs' player to lose", that the Fielder market was currently down to the Cubs and Mariners, with Chicago the front-runner and the Mariners only an option if Fielder had no better options. The bow-tied FOXSports.com reporter spoke to one "executive", however, who said he/she expected that Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, "... can usually pull a rabbit out of his hat," with that hat, in Mr. Rosenthal's opinion, the Mariners or possibly another team...
"Some executives still expect Fielder to hear from the Nationals," Mr. Rosenthal wrote before referring to the Nats as, "the preferred ATM of the Scott Boras Corporation in recent years."
The rumors won't die until Fielder signs somewhere.