Prince Fielder Rumors: Would He Make the Washington Nationals NL East Favorite?

Timothy HowellCorrespondent IIJanuary 4, 2012

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 14:  Prince Fielder #28 of the Milwaukee Brewers looks on during batting practice against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 14, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

According to numerous reports, most recently by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Washington Nationals are in hot pursuit of Scott Boras client and premiere slugger Prince Fielder.

With the possibility of Fielder landing in our nation's capital, you have to wonder what impact the former Brewers big man could have not just on the Nationals, but on the National League as a whole.

Not only would the possibility of landing Prince Fielder steal some offseason thunder from the much-improved and headline-grabbing Miami Marlins, it might just keep them ahead of the Marlins in terms of overall improvement.  

Always a pitching-dominant league, the National League's Eastern Division certainly fits well into that template. The Philadelphia Phillies were the best of the best last year, as their team ERA of 3.02 was top in the National League.

The Atlanta Braves, fittingly, were second (just as they were in the two-hole in the NL East's final standings) with a 3.48 ERA.  Next, it was the Nationals with a very respectable 3.58 team ERA.

The Nationals pitching rotation is sure to improve in 2012 as they will get a full season out of ace-in-the-making Stephen Strasburg.  Recently acquired Gio Gonzalez also provides Washington with a starter that has proven he has front-of-the-rotation stuff—and from the left-side to boot.

In 2011, the Nationals real problem wasn't their pitching, but their relatively pedestrian offense; one that was led by the under-the-radar arrival of then little-known Michael Morse.

Even with Morse's significant contributions, the Nationals received subpar offensive output from last year's free agent signee Jayson Werth (.232/.330/.389), as well as a drop off in power from third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (12 home runs.)

Both Zimmerman and Werth should rebound in 2012, and the acquisition of Mark DeRosa will add a much needed bat from the bench, as well as a versatile utility glove.

In 2011, the Washington Nationals' team batting average clocked in at a paltry .242, which tied them for next-to-last in the National League.

The gap between the Phillies (.253 team BA), and the Braves (.243 team BA) is certainly one that could be closed and possibly surpassed with the signing of a proven slugger such as Prince Fielder.   

And not to be forgotten, the imminent arrival of super-prospect Bryce Harper next summer (perhaps sooner), would also be an "acquisition" that would not only put the Nationals in a position to compete for a Wild Card, it might also help them surpass the Philadelphia Phillies for NL East title contention.

Most agree that the Washington Nationals have the potential to be a contender in the next few years as some of their key prospects begin to produce at the major league level.  

The addition of a known quantity such as Prince Fielder could speed-up that diagnosis and possibly make the Nationals a contender as soon as this coming season.

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