According to multiple reports, Prince Fielder isn't coming to Washington. The Tigers have agreed to sign the slugging first baseman to a nine-year deal worth $214 million.
Five days after Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said of Fielder, "He doesn't fit for us. He's looking for a long-term deal and that just doesn't fit," theTigers swooped in at the end of the negotiations, emerging as the mystery team that snagged the powerful left-handed hitter.
Assuming those contract figures are true, the Nationals weren't going to match the Tigers - probably not in money and certainly not in length. But Detroit, trying to figure out a way to compensate for the loss of catcher/designated hitter Victor Martinez to a knee injury that will cost him the 2012 season, figured Fielder was a worthy replacement.
Fielder will DH more in Detroit than he probably wants - the Tigers already have Miguel Cabrera at first base, though he's also played third base early in his career - but Fielder will spend the prime years of his career in Detroit, where his estranged father Cecil reinvented himself as a feared power hitter in the early 1990s.
According to baseball sources, the Nationals were hesitant to go beyond six or seven years for Fielder's services, and some on South Capitol Street worried that five years was their limit, and still too long. They were probably worried that the 275-lb. slugger's health might deteriorate near the end of a long-term deal and knew that Fielder is already considered only a serviceable first baseman, a description that could decline with age.
So the Nationals will go into spring training with Adam LaRoche at first base, and hope his surgically repaired left shoulder is ready for the rigors of a full season. Michael Morse, who last week signed a two-year extension, and Mark DeRosa will back LaRoche up at first base.
Scott Boras, Fielder's agent, eventually got the deal he sought. It wasn't Albert Pujols money, but it came close what the Angels paid to lure Pujols from the National League. Even Boras' strong ties to the Nationals weren't enough to bring Fielder to D.C. And the American League continues to pile up top first basemen, having added Boston's Adrian Gonzalez, Pujols and Fielder in the past two offseasons.
The Nationals had already scheduled a press conference for Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. to introduce left-hander Gio Gonzalez, acquired last month in a six-player swap with the A's. While Gonzalez will speak publicly for the first time since the deal, general manager Mike Rizzo is sure to get plenty of questions about how far talks with Fielder went before he opted for Detroit.