All that talk about the Nationals not wanting free-agent first
baseman Prince Fielder?
Don’t believe it.
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
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.