The Prince Fielder saga appears to have reached its conclusion. In a location no one predicted.
Fielder has agreed to a nine-year contract worth more than 200 million with the Detroit Tigers, according to reports by Yahoo! Sports's Tim Brown and CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman.
Never seriously mentioned as a destination for Fielder, Detroit somehow emerged the victor in an unprecedented free-agent sweepstakes that lasted nearly four months and (depending on who you believe) had the Nationals as heavy favorites to land the 27-year-old first baseman.
In the end, the Nationals stayed true to their mantra from the start of the offseason: They were interested in Fielder only if his asking price came way down, specifically the number of years he was seeking. Everyone expected agent Scott Boras to be able to command a deal of 8-10 years when Fielder became a free agent in November, but in the ensuing months no clubs publicly or privately stated they would be willing to meet those demands.
Thus, the Nationals appeared to enter a sweepstakes they never expected to be in, perhaps presented the opportunity to sign one of the game's premier sluggers for well below his perceived market value.
But Boras has rarely, if ever, settled for less than he wanted, and he's always been a master at playing the market to his advantage and making the baseball world believe one or more clubs were offering more than they really were. In this case, he managed to convince the Tigers to lock up Fielder at a price no one else could match.
Whether they ever seriously believed they had a shot at signing Fielder, the Nationals always were comfortable moving forward with the lineup they already had in place. Veteran Adam LaRoche, who missed most of last year with a torn shoulder, will open the season at first base. Michael Morse, coming off a breakthrough season, will open in left field but could easily slide to first base if LaRoche is traded or injured again.