MLB Free Agency: Washington Nationals Emerge as Favorites for Prince Fielder

Alec Dopp@alecdoppCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2012

MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 16:  Prince Fielder #28 of the Milwaukee Brewers bats against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Six of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 16, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For the first time since Major League Baseball's 2011 season ended last October, the free-agent market for former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder finally seems to be intensifying.

Based on what an MLB official told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel over the weekend, the Washington Nationals appear to be emerging as the favorite to land Fielder this winter. 

Haudricourt had this to say on Monday:

An MLB official told me over the weekend that word is spreading in the industry that the Washington Nationals have emerged as a favorite to sign free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder.

As with many other teams who have been reported to be in the market for Fielder, the Nationals have downplayed their potential interest in the veggie-eating first baseman. 

GM Mike Rizzo affirmed recently last month that "unless something extraordinary and out of the ordinary" were to take place, 32-year-old Adam LaRoche was to start at first-base for the Nationals on Opening Day.

The market for Fielder's services has been surprisingly slow thus far.  Most thought that when Albert Pujols inked his record 10-year, $254 million contract with the Angels earlier this month that that would be a potential springboard to many teams interested in making a contract offer to Fielder this winter.

Clearly, that hasn't been the case and if this report proves true, the Nationals may be on the verge of bringing the top free agent available to help bolster their chances in a severely improved NL East division next season and beyond.

Haudricourt would also go on to say that the Nationals may or may not go to Fielder's desired eight- to 10-year deal but that as long as Washington can match Pujols' $25.4 million annual salary, the length of the deal may not matter entirely.

Alec Dopp covers the Milwaukee Brewers as a featured columnist on Bleacher Report.  Follow him on Twitter and read his blog.