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Prince Fielder to Nats is Inevitable

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

As soon as baseball executives and “anonymous team sources” start saying stuff like, “there’s a 99% chance we won’t do something…” you know for a fact that “something” is going to happen.

Baseball executives, owners and GMs lie.  It’s part of the game.  We watch Ruben Amaro do it every year. GMs tell the agents they’re negotiating with that they’re not going to bend over backwards to sign their client.

Yesterday, the Nationals announced to the world that there was a 99% chance that they won’t sign Prince Fielder.

Yeah, right.

Today comes a report from the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore that Scott Boras met with Nationals owners Ted and Mark Lerner last night.

My guess is they didn’t gather for a chin wag about Mitt Romney’s win in the New Hampshire primary.

It seems as if Boras is deciding that he’s done fooling around.  He’s realizing that teams aren’t going to raise their offers for his stable of free agents.   The first shoe dropped when Ryan Madson signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal on Wednesday with the Cincinnati Reds.  Time is running out and his clients are likely pressuring him to stop screwing around and get something done.

That’s why I think Prince Fielder will be a Washington National by the end of this Martin Luther King weekend.

Washington has been the perceived front-runner for a couple of weeks now.  The Nats, despite employing Adam LaRoche at first base, have an opening there, and need a big splash-signing to really excite the fan base.

Signing Prince Fielder would be their Jim Thome moment.

And, the Lerners have done business with Boras a lot in the past (Jayson Werth, Steven Strasburg and Bryce Harper to name a few) and have a good working relationship with him.

The marriage just makes too much sense for it not to happen.

The Nats also recognize that the sun is setting on the Phillies’ run of dominance in the NL East, and are ramping up to coincide with a Phils’ fall that many think is on the horizon.  The Nats traded for Gio Gonzalez earlier in the offseason and have been aggressive on a number of other free agents.

They mean business.

Pretty soon, the Phillies aren’t going to have the Nationals to kick around anymore.  That trend began last year when the Nats were one of the few teams in baseball who played the Phils tough.  From 2007-2010, the Phillies went 51-21 against the Nats, with a run differential of +118.  They never won fewer than 12 games against Washington in any of those years, and went 15-3 against them in 2009.

Quite simply, the Phils have owned the Nationals over the last few years.  Usually, they could bank on winning at least two out of three or sweeping a Nats series whenever times got tough.

Last year, however, things were different.  The Phillies struggled against the Nationals, going only 8-10 against them with a run differential of -1.  And when Washington does sign Fielder, you can bet there will be more seasons like 2011, than there were seasons from 2007-2010.

That said, even with Fielder, the Nationals have just as many, if not more “ifs,” than any team in the NL East, and in my opinion, are still probably be a year away from really contending for a Wild Card or division title.

Can Steven Strasburg make it through a whole season healthy?  Can he be the true ace of that staff?  How good is Jordan Zimmerman?  Is the Michael Morse we saw in 2011 for real?  Can Jayson Werth rebound and be a true middle of the order force?  Can Ryan Zimmerman stay healthy for a full season?  Is Danny Espinoza for real?  What are the Nats going to do about center field?  Can Werth really play center field full time?  What about the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation?  And can the Nats bullpen have another solid year like they did in ’11?

That’s a lot of question marks that still need to be answered before anyone can anoint them as playoff contenders, even if they do sign Prince Fielder.  That being said, signing Prince would make facing Washington a lot tougher, and would give the Nats a decent core of hitters with which to go to battle.

The Nats are more dangerous now than they have ever been in their brief history.  And when they sign Prince Fielder this weekend (and it IS going to happen within the next few days) those automatic wins the Phils have historically gotten against them will be a thing of the past.

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