MLB Trade Speculation: Prince Fielder to the Washington Nationals?
Granted, there is a significant following that still believes Pujols will return to the St. Louis Cardinals, and general consensus tells us that Fielder will in fact move. Nevertheless, multiple suitors have been suggested for the beefy first baseman, and one has emerged with particular intrigue after the Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft.
(Does anyone else feel strange describing Prince Fielder as "beefy?" Ah, let's move on.)
As ESPN's Buster Olney pointed out in his blog, the Washington Nationals have collected a plethora of players who call themselves clients of MLB super-agent Scott Boras. Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth are all of this sort, as are the first three 2011 Nationals draft picks, including third baseman Anthony Rendon.
Who else works with the notorious Mr. Boras? Prince Fielder.
While some teams may shy away from pursuing even one Boras client, Washington has demonstrated more than a mere comfort. The aforementioned list includes three of the franchise's biggest names.
What's more, the Nationals have a clear need at first base, where Adam LaRoche—he of a .258 slugging percentage—currently resides.
Of course, the Nationals have tried to land big names before, including a well-known first baseman who turned them down. Mark Teixeira, too, was a Scott Boras client.
This time around, however, fewer teams have such a glaring need at first base. This is especially true for the big-money clubs. The Boston Red Sox (Adrian Gonzalez), New York Yankees (Teixeira), Philadelphia Phillies (Ryan Howard) and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Kendrys Morales) all have mashing first basemen signed for the significant future.
It seems like a perfect fit. So what would happen if Washington reeled in the biggest (literally and figuratively) fish in free agency?
Mr. Olney already went to the trouble of designing a speculated lineup featuring Fielder on Opening Day 2013. With No. 2 through No. 6 hitters, Harper, Zimmerman, Fielder, Werth and Rendon, Washington would suddenly have a fearsome offensive unit on par with baseball's best.
What's even scarier is that, other than Werth, the oldest of the group is Fielder, who would just be entering his expected prime at age 28.
What's even scarier than that, the Nationals could take advantage of a period in which the rest of the National League East is in a collective decline.
The current kings of the division, the Philadelphia Phillies, feature three veteran starting pitchers and an offense that's already sputtering. Granted, not too many are betting that Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt will be pushovers in two seasons, but they do not have the time that the Nationals' youth bestows unto them.
The Atlanta Braves have young guns of their own in Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Tommy Hanson, but they also currently rely heavily on older veterans like Chipper Jones, Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson. Who knows how and if they'll be able to replace those contributors?
The Florida Marlins have potential to make great strides in a couple of years' time. With team leader Hanley Ramirez at the helm and a young outfield nucleus of Mike Stanton, Chris Coghlan and Logan Morrison (all 26 or younger today), Florida could be a force to be reckoned with if their starting pitchers, not named Josh Johnson, step up. Then again, even with a new stadium on the way, the Marlins' ownership has always been unpredictable, and the roster resembles nothing if not a revolving door.
The New York Mets...well, no one knows what they're going to look like at the end of this year, let alone 2013.
Prince Fielder to the Washington Nationals could revolutionize a division that's seen literally every other franchise smell success over the past 20 seasons. The Braves ruled the National League in the 1990s, reaching five World Series and winning one. The Marlins have won two World Series (though, to be honest, I'm not quite sure how) during their brief history. Even the Mets celebrated some success, meeting their crosstown rivals in the 2000 World Series, though they lost to the Yankees.
The Nationals, meanwhile, suffered through to the end of their existence as the Montreal Expos in 2004. Their only significantly successful season came in 1994, when they sported the best record in baseball—only to see it not matter, for the season was halted by the labor strike.
Could this be the time that the franchise's fortune finally turns around? Could the Nationals become a powerhouse, not only to contend for one or two seasons, but for several years to come?
Such a destiny seems only appropriate for a Prince.
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