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As promised, an update on Prince Fielder, a man who – much like Matt Garza – may or may not be a part of the Chicago Cubs’ 2012 team.

And, much like was the case with Matt Garza rumors, it’s important to contextualize everything you hear these days. It may seem one day that it is plainly impossible that Fielder could come to the Cubs, and the next day it could seem almost likely. Rumors – even the most reliably sourced rumors – are merely data points. Fold them into what you know and what you believe, and allow them to shape your expectations at the margins. Give them more power than that, and you’ll only be disappointed when you find out that you – all of us – knew far less than you thought you did.

With that overwrought reminder out of the way, the latest on Prince Fielder…

  • Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who’d previously pegged the Cubs as the team that would ultimately land Fielder, now saysit’s probably going to be the Nationals. “So, if the Nats once again are negotiating secretly with Boras on Fielder, don’t be surprised. I had pegged the Mariners, Rangers and Cubs as the leading candidates to sign Fielder at the start of the off-season but now am told the Nationals are the favorite to sign him.┬áThe MLB official I talked to wasn’t sure the Nationals would go the eight to 10 years that Boras is seeking for Fielder, however. They might prefer to go shorter on the deal but as long as Boras is able to match or exceed the $25.4 million annual salary that Pujols is getting from the Angels, I’m guessing he will be happy.”

  • Nats GM Mike Rizzo recently said, barring “something extraordinary,” Adam LaRoche would be the team’s first baseman in 2012. Many are now speculating that the “something extraordinary” would be the signing of Fielder, itself. In other words, Rizzo might not have been saying anything.
  • Then again, some of the local Washington media is waiting to hear of Fielder interest – let alone “front-runnership” – from a source in the Nationals’ front office before accepting the Nats as a major player. Indeed, were the Nationals to sign Fielder, they’d likely be forced to reach the upper levels of all payrolls in baseball come 2014. Others in Washington don’t want the Nats to pursue Fielder anyway. So, are they really the front-runner? Again: caveat rumor.
  • Ken Rosenthal says some believe Scott Boras is demanding an opt-out clause in Fielder’s contract, which, of course, only benefits Fielder (and Boras). If Fielder performs well for the first three years of an otherwise reasonable seven-year deal, he walks and makes even more money (or threatens to walk to squeeze more money out of his team a la CC Sabathia). If Fielder balloons and stinks, he sticks around for the full length of his suddenly burdensome seven-year deal.

  • One final thought: if Fielder goes to the Nationals, you’re going to hear talk of Adam LaRoche coming to the Cubs (no, not Michael Morse, whom the Nats can play in the outfield). Even if the Nats eat most of his $8 million 2012 salary (and $1 million 2013 buyout), and even if LaRoche is fully healthy, I’m not sure I see why the Cubs would be more inclined to let LaRoche take the job over Bryan LaHair. Don’t get me wrong, a healthy LaRoche is likelier bet for a better 2012 season. But if the Cubs are heading toward non-youthful fall-back options like LaRoche anyway, they might as well just give LaHair a shot.

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