The calender has turned and much of the Hot Stove action has cooled. There are still a few big fish available though and the biggest one in the pond is 1B Prince Fielder. Fielder remains unsigned despite being viewed by some as a better investment than Albert Pujols due to his younger age and (presumably) cheaper contract.
With the traditional free agent bullies out of the picture this off-season, it opens up the playground for some new teams to flex some financial muscle. I have no allegiance to the Washington Nationals, but they should go ahead and make the move that has been calling their name for several weeks now.
I've been on the Prince Fielder to the Washington Nationals bandwagon since October and it looks like ESPN's Jim Bowden has joined me in the front row. In an ESPN Insider piece, Bowden gives five reasons for why the Nationals need to go ahead and open up the checkbook.
- The chance to win now - I'm not afraid to say it: with Fielder in the fold, the Nats are a World Series contender. I love the one-two punch atop the rotation - not to mention the addition of Gio Gonzalez - and a very solid offense becomes explosive with Fielder cleaning up in the four-hole.
- Long-term offensive production - Prince Fielder, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Michael Morse, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, Anthony Rendon, etc. Certainly the jury is still out with a number of these guys, but that is a list of names that most franchises would be happy to have.
- Win now for Ted Lerner - This is more sentimental than anything else, but if I'm a Nats fan, I'm in favor of anything that gets the team to the playoffs.
- Leadership for Bryce Harper - Bryce Harper is not the only young player in need of leadership, but - with or without Fielder - he is one of the two or three most important players in the entire organization despite not playing a game above Double-A yet. Bowden looks at the combination of Fielder's vocal leadership and Ryan Zimmerman's leadership by example as a great situation for a player of Harper's caliber to grow and develop under.
- Drawing card and diversity - Would adding a black star to the middle of a World Series caliber team help tap into the black Washington D.C. fan base? I don't know for sure, but it definitely wouldn't hurt. The most important thing is that adding Fielder would help the Nats establish themselves as a National League power. When the team starts winning and generating buzz, they will start to recognize the dividends and will see more diversity in the park as more and more baseball fans come out and unite around their team.