The Nationals are showing serious interest in Fielder and view Cuban outfielder Yoennis Cespedes as a potential Plan B, according to major-league sources.
Talks with Fielder hit a significant roadblock on Monday, one source said, prompting the Nats to revisit Cespedes as an alternative.
Cespedes, 26, is not yet on the open market; he first must establish temporary residence in the Dominican Republic, a development that is expected any day now.
After that, he would petition Major League Baseball to become a free agent. Approval is expected to come quickly, and the bidding on him could begin next week at the winter meetings in Dallas.
Fielder, 27, is the Nationals’ primary target, at least among offensive players, sources said. The Nats also are pursuing high-end starting pitchers, including free agents C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle and Roy Oswalt.
The situation is fluid on all fronts; the Cubs, Mariners and Rangers are among the other clubs expected to be in the mix for Fielder, and other teams figure to join them.
While some in the industry believe the Cubs will rebuild, their new manager, former Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum, enjoyed a strong relationship with Fielder in Milwaukee.
For the Nationals, the addition of Fielder could further bolster a lineup that figures to improve at some point next season with the arrival of another Scott Boras client, outfielder Bryce Harper.
The Nats’ incumbent first baseman, Adam LaRoche, is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator-cuff damage in his left shoulder, but is expected to be ready for spring training. LaRoche, 32, is owed $8 million next season, plus a $1 million buyout on his $10 million club option for 2013.
Cespedes, meanwhile, could fill the Nationals’ void in center field, enabling the Nats to stick with LaRoche at first and Cespedes, Jayson Werth and Michael Morse in the outfield until Harper is ready.
The Marlins and Red Sox are among numerous other clubs showing strong interest in Cespedes, sources said.