To paraphrase Yogi Berra, the Prince Fielder story will be over when it's over.
The Nationals are interested, but long-term - like seven-plus years long-term - interested? That Fielder is only 27 - 28 in May - would seem to make a longer deal more desirable. Fielder's physique - he's listed at 5-foot-11 and 275 lbs. and can really only play first base - tends to make many observers believe that his eventual position will be bat, as in full-time DH. In the American League.
That aside, a bat like Fielder's is a difference maker. Sticking Fielder into the Washington batting order makes for a pretty formidable offense. Not Murderer's Row, but pretty potent, all things considered.
Can the Nationals find someone to take Adam LaRoche? Sure, if they're willing to pay half of LaRoche's 2012 $8 million contract, which they probably are. If not, it doesn't necessarily negate their interest in Fielder, but it does complicate matters.
I wonder, should Fielder and the Nationals find common ground, if his uniform number will be an issue. Prince has worn No. 28, which is currently worn by Jayson Werth, who took it off the back of Michael Morse. Werth is the senior man in terms of career length, so maybe that's the trump card.
General manager Mike Rizzo has said - more than once - that he considers the Nationals' first base position "settled." You learn after a while that GM- speak isn't always what it seems. They know they're not under oath, after all.
I'm guessing it's even money that Fielder ends up with the Nationals, which is much further than I was willing to go five days ago. The great unknown is whatever timetable Fielder and agent Scott Boras have set to sign, and what strategy Boras has come up with in case no one's willing to offer as many years as he wants for his client.
Pitchers and catchers report to Viera in six weeks. Prince Fielder in a curly W? We'll see.
One other note: it's been reported that the Nationals are looking at free agent Eric Chavez. Chavez, a Yankee last season, spent most of his career with the Oakland A's, where he won six Gold Gloves at third base. He just turned 34, and is a .267 career hitter with 232 home runs and 813 RBIs in 1,378 games since 1998.
Chavez is a left-handed bat, and a former first-round draft pick. He's had his share of physical problems over his career, with recurrent back pain and multiple trips to the disabled list. Last year in New York, he broke a bone in his foot in May and didn't return until late July.
Chavez's injury history may give some pause, but the Nats signed Mark DeRosa recently, and he's had recurrent wrist problems. The Nationals survived the absence of Ryan Zimmerman for 58 games last year with veterans Jerry Hairston Jr. and Alex Cora - both natural middle infielders - picking up the bulk of playing time at third base. Chavez is a solid, if no longer an everyday, third baseman. He's got a career .342 on-base percentage. He has decent power, and is resigned to being a sub for the rest of his career. In short, he may be a worthwhile short-term addition for a team that expects to contend in 2012.