Rounding up news on Fielder, Zimmerman (updated)

Better prepare for the long haul - it's going to be a while before Prince Fielder comes to a decision on where he's going to play in 2012 and beyond.

To get your morning started, here are some random thoughts related to the Nationals, their pursuit of Fielder and other news in and around NatsTown:

* Fielder and agent Scott Boras are holding firm on their demand for a deal of eight years or more. That's not going to fly with the Nationals, who would prefer a shorter term - say, five or six years. Why not look for the middle ground. Give Fielder a five-year deal with a couple of vesting options tied to games started. That solves the tricky problem of what to do with a guy heading into his mid-30s whose weight creates legitimate concerns for the team, and puts the onus on Fielder to stay healthy and productive in order to cash in.

* For those of you who are criticizing general manager Mike Rizzo (or the Lerner family, if you think the Boras/Fielder camp is bypassing Rizzo to negotiate directly with team ownership) for being so quiet, consider this: The worst thing that can happen in this kind of contract discussion is for one team to be bidding against itself. While I firmly believe there are other potential suitors for Fielder - the Rangers will stay in the mix until the price gets too high, the Dodgers are a factor despite their ownership issues, and you know someone like the Orioles, Blue Jays or Brewers is lurking in the weeds - why lay your cards on the table and give Boras a chance to play both ends, however imaginary one of them may or may not be, against the middle? The last thing the Nationals want is a repeat of the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes of December 2008/January 2009, where they made what they thought was a good-faith bid only to see it used to up the ante for the Yankees, Teixeira's eventual destination.

* Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported yesterday that third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, a free agent in two years, is finally talking extension with the Nationals and has gone as far to outline exactly what he wants his next contract to look like in terms of annual salary. Zimmerman, who will make $12 million in 2012 and $14 million in 2013, doesn't want to sign a deal that would prevent the Nationals from making other moves they deem necessary. Having that flexibility is important moving forward, especially with young players like Drew Storen, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Bryce Harper due big paydays down the road. It also comes off as a team-first approach, and might make it easier for the Nationals to carve out a deal with Fielder because they know what kind of commitment they need to make to Zimmerman.

* Finally, a little Fielder-related levity. You can always count on The Onion for a chuckle-inducing look at the news of the day, and their astute parodists have Fielder - and his ample girth - firmly in their sights. It was only a matter of time before someone made light of the wining and dining - well, the latter more than the former - of free agents. Enjoy their unique take on teams' pursuit of Fielder.

Update: According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Rangers are likely out of the Fielder sweepstakes. Nightengale says talks have accelerated and could conclude as soon as today.

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