It's January 5 and Prince Fielder is still a free agent. Prince Fielder is 27 years old and owns a career 143 OPS+. Prince Fielder, naturally, is a popular topic of conversation - especially lately, with word that the Washington Nationals might be the favorites in the sweepstakes despite having expressed support for Adam LaRoche. The Nationals have seemed like a fit for a while, and could blow away the competition with a Nationals-like offer. It feels weird to characterize a huge offer as being "Nationals-like" just based on the whole Jayson Werth thing, but you knew what I meant when you read it. The Nationals aren't afraid to spend big.
Just how good of a fit is Fielder with the Nationals, though? Steve Slowinski of FanGraphs gives it a look. You should read the whole thing, but a key part:
[Michael] Morse could play in left field for the Nationals next season, but he won’t be able to stay there for long; Bryce Harper is rising through the minors like a shot, and he could easily reach the majors by the end of 2012. Unless the Nationals think Harper can play centerfield — and all indications are that they want him in a corner outfield spot — then by signing Fielder, the Nationals may be making not one, but two players on their roster obsolete.
Morse has batted 923 times with the Nationals, posting a 139 OPS+. Slowinski asserts that, by adding Fielder, the Nationals would not only force LaRoche out of the picture - they'd cut into Morse's playing time. A little in 2012, and a lot in 2013 (and beyond). Given that Morse has been productive, this is not good.
And Slowinski's right. On the other hand, the Nationals can't just assume that Harper will arrive quickly and immediately succeed. Additionally, in the event of a roster crunch, Morse would have trade value. The Nationals could try to exchange him for a need, were they to end up with nowhere to play him.
So it's not a huge stumbling block. It's just something for the Nationals to think about. Because the idea of signing Prince Fielder isn't already complicated enough.