DALLAS - Prince Fielder at first base with a curly W on his cap? Don’t expect the Nationals to make a move on the biggest - literally and in terms of potential impact - free agent on the market.
In an exclusive interview with MASNsports.com at the Winter Meetings, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Fielder isn’t on the team’s radar right now and that he’s content to go into spring training with Adam LaRoche as the club’s starting first baseman.
“Right now, we feel very set at first base with Adam LaRoche, who is signed and under contract,” Rizzo said. “We hope that he is healthy and reverts back to his career norms, which are .265, 25 homers, 85 to 90 RBIs and Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base.”
The 32-year-old LaRoche is in the second year of a two-year, $16 million contract he signed last offseason. The Nationals are on the hook for $8 million more - $7 million in 2012, with a $1 million buyout should they not exercise their portion of a $10 million mutual option for 2013. LaRoche was limited to 43 games, hitting .172 with three homers and 15 RBIs before opting for season-ending May 22 surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Even beyond LaRoche, the Nationals have options at first, though they are fuzzier after promising Chris Marrero had surgery last week to repair a torn left hamstring, an injury that will likely sideline him from the start of spring drills. Michael Morse could move from left field to first base, where he filled in for LaRoche for most of last season, and slugger Tyler Moore is waiting in the wings in the minors.
While Rizzo doesn’t expect the Nationals to pursue Fielder, who .299 with 38 homers and drove in 128 runs for the National League Central champion Brewers in 2011, he’s not completely closing the door on talks about the power hitter. Should Fielder’s asking price drop, or should something complicate LaRoche’s recovery, Rizzo intends to keep abreast of the market.
“Like I said, things are fluid and if there’s a change at one position, it’s sometimes a domino effect and other players come into play. As of right now, we’re content with Adam LaRoche at first and we feel that we’re pretty deep with options at that position,” Rizzo said.
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