It has to end eventually, but there’s time for another stab at teams still in the running for Prince Fielder. The Cubs and Mariners went young, presumably taking them out. The Rangers are flirting and may be willing to do something on a shorter scale. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants jump in late, even though they’ve publicly stated they’re not interested. The Orioles and Blue Jays remain long shots; although, with a second wild card coming next year, now may be the time for the Jays to jump back into free agency.
The frontrunner from day one seems to be the Nationals. They have money burning through their pockets and likely won’t be scared off by the disastrous Jayson Werth contract. Although serviceable and making decent money, having Adam LaRoche shouldn’t deter them. On the Nationals end, they have to think about the effect the signing will have on Ryan Zimmerman’s extension talks, as well as the idea of holding money for some veteran pitching in the future to complement Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. Additionally, bringing Fielder on board allows them to be more patient with Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. The big questions: Are they bidding against themselves and what kind of leverage can Scott Boras squeeze out of another team?
My guess is they’ll use the short-term Ranger option — with the idea that in three years the market may expand with some of the bigger-payroll teams — to leverage the Nationals into the deal they want.
Prediction: Nationals and seven years at $171.5 million.