The Nationals have lost out to the Detroit Tigers in their bid for free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder. The 5-11 275-pound slugger, who has 230 homers in six full seasons, including 50 in 2007, apparently couldn’t pass up $214 million over nine seasons. The length of the deal was what seemingly put the Tigers ahead of the Nats, who were reportedly offering six or seven years.
So Fielder heads from Milwaukee to the Motor City, where his father, Cecil Fielder, put up the best years of his 13-season career, including 51 homers in 1990.
For the Nationals, it means Adam LaRoche no longer has to worry about job security at first base, as long as he stays healthy and his bat returns to form after last year’s surgery for a torn labrum. It also means that Michael Morse, who replaced the injured LaRoche at first, will be the full-time left fielder to start the season. It could also leave a roster spot free for top prospect Bryce Harper to possibly start the season with the big league club, if he can earn a spot in spring training. If LaRoche’s bat does not come around again, or if he gets hurt again, Morse would move to first and Harper might get a shot later in the season.
By passing on Fielder, the Nats are also keeping some money in the bank for Ryan Zimmerman, who has begun negotiations with the team on a new contract.
The Nationals also won’t have to worry about Fielder upstaging Wednesday’s introduction of their prize acquisition this offseason, starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez. The team gave up four prized prospects, including pitchers Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone, for the left-hander in a December trade. Then earlier this month, they signed him to a contract extension five-year, $42 million contract extension, with options that could keep him under team control through 2018.