Nationals.com beat reporter Bill Ladson made the hearts of Nats fans everywhere sink today when he wrote that a source informed him there is a "99 percent chance" that the club will not sign Prince Fielder. According to Ladson, someone with knowledge of the negotiations believes that the current asking price for the All-Star first baseman is just too high:
"There is a "99 percent" chance that the Nationals will not sign free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder, according to a baseball source.
The news comes a few weeks after ownership met with Fielder and his agent, Scott Boras, in the nation's capital.
The source indicated that Fielder's price must come down in order for the team to think about acquiring his services. The Nats are not willing to give Fielder anything close to the 10-year, $240 million contract the Angels gave first baseman Albert Pujols."
Here are three reasons that this news isn't the end of the world:
1. Ladson's third paragraph here indicates that the team isn't necessarily turned off by the idea of signing Fielder, but rather they are deadset on holding firm to their goal of only signing fair free-agent contracts. This means then that with the current status of the club's negotiations with Scott Boras, there is just no way they could make a deal happen. But if we know anything about Scott Boras, it's that he plays games, and often times the first number he throws out is nowhere near the one his client ends up accepting. I suspect that if Boras really is asking for Pujols-type money, or something close to it, its all a ruse to make a reasonable, say 10-year $180 million deal, look like a steal.
2. The market for Fielder is incredibly dry, and the general managers left in the bidding at this point in the game are pretty frugal. In fact, before Ladson's article came out today, you could make the argument that the Nationals were the only true bidders left for Prince...with only a 1% chance left that Washington will sign him, does that mean there is a 99% chance he wont play? I doubt it.
It seems to me that the only teams really in the game at this point are the Nationals, the Seattle Mariners, the Texas Rangers if they don't sign Yu Darvish, and possibly but very unlikely the Los Angeles Dodgers. This means that the Nationals don't need to move toward Fielder's number in negotiations, in fact, they don't even have to flinch. Right now Rizzo is in the driver's seat and he knows it. He's had this dance with Boras before, and for once, he has all the leverage.
3. No one knows who the source listed by Ladson is, or what his intentions are. It's completely possible that by "leaking" this information, someone on the Nats side hoped it would help them at the negotiating table. There is no way of knowing if this is the case, but let's consider what information was shared in this story. First, the source told us that Fielder is demanding an absurd amount of money, approaching that of what Pujols made this winter. Second, he told us that the Nationals are concerned about Fielder's weight, and his ability to maintain his mobility as he gets older. So to summarize, this article has forced the public to talk about two things, that Fielder isn't worth as much as he is demanding, and that his long-term value is questionable. Seems to me, whether or not it was intended, this leak has played out well for Washington.