After the Nationals engaged in negotiations with Prince Fielder and the baseball world deemed them the favorite to sign him, Fielder agreed Tuesday on a nine-year contract worth $214 million with the Detroit Tigers, pending a physical, according to reports by Yahoo! and CBSSports.com.
After months of speculation, the Tigers emerged from out of nowhere to land baseball’s biggest remaining free agent.
The Nationals were hesitant to give Fielder, 27, the number of years he desired in a contract. The Nationals had no plans from the beginning of their discussions with Fielder to offer him a deal beyond six or seven years.
Fielder landing with the Tigers will disappoint plenty of people in Washington, but not Davey Johnson. The Nationals’ manager expressed satisfaction with the way the Nationals handled their talks with Fielder, saying the stunning nine-year, $214 million commitment the Tigers made to Fielder would have been too cumbersome for the Nationals.
“I think everybody wanted [Fielder’s] bat in the lineup,” Johnson said. “He’s a lethal weapon. I was perfectly comfortable having Adam LaRoche, having his bat in the lineup, having the nimble feet he offers around the bag. I was not pushing for the club to break the bank. I think the club was right. If it was a short-term deal, that’s one thing. Long-term commitment, really, I think we have some other issues that are more pressing.”
The Nationals entered discussions with Fielder content with their situation at first base. They have Adam LaRoche, who will make $8 million this season in the final year of his deal. They also have Michael Morse, who just signed a two-year extension worth $10.5 million. The Nationals plan to play Morse in left field this season, but he was the Nationals’ best hitter in 2011 while playing first.
In the end, while he was not directly involved in any negotiations, Johnson believes the Nationals’ interest in Fielder may have been overstated.
“I think a lot of it was [agent Scott] Boras playing everybody,” Johnson said. “There were a lot of teams — and I think we’re one of them — that never made an offer. I could be wrong. It’s over. I’m happy it’s over. I like to project what we’re having for spring training. I hope he’s happy. We’ve got enough to do the job. We just have to go do it.”
Johnson believes the Nationals have enough young talent to contend without Fielder, mentioning Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Michael Morse and LaRoche by name.
“There’s a lot of exciting things coming about,” Johnson said. “Making that big financial commitment right now, I wasn’t pushing it. I think that Rizzo and the organization are doing the right thing, the way they handled. They’re leaving options open.”
“It’s not 38 homers and 120 RBI, but we do have depth” at first base, Johnson added. “We have major league depth. End of story.”