The Nationals did make a run at signing Prince Fielder over the last month, but pulled out of negotiations once it was clear the free agent first baseman would get a contract far beyond what they were willing to offer.
"I had parameters set in my mind what the threshold was for the player," general manager Mike Rizzo said today following a news conference to introduce left-hander Gio Gonzalez. "And once it exceeded that threshold, we felt like if the market didn't come back to us, we were out of it."
Rizzo declined to reveal what those parameters were, or whether he ever actually made a formal offer. However high the Nationals were willing to go, it proved no match for the nine-year, 214 million package Fielder wound up accepting yesterday from the Tigers.
"Prince is a terrific player and got paid like the superstar that he is," Rizzo said. "Congratulations to the Detroit Tigers. They just got a lot better."
The Nationals never intended to get involved in the Fielder sweepstakes when the offseason began. Somewhere along the way, though, it began to appear the slugger could be had for significantly fewer years and dollars than originally expected.
Rizzo confirmed he met with Fielder in person once, and on "several" occasions with agent Scott Boras. Though various reports surfaced this month that the Nationals were the frontrunners to land the 27-year old, the organization never had a clear idea where they stood.
"I thought that we were players in the process," Rizzo said. "But it's an unpredictable process, and you don't know what deals are out there, and what's fact and what's fiction."
Why wouldn't the Nationals raise their threshold in an attempt to outbid all other potential suitors?
"We feel we no longer have to beg and overpay for players to come to us," Rizzo said. "We feel this is becoming an attractive place for major-league players to play. ... And secondly, we have options at that particular position. And we feel two very good options (Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse)."
"We're going to do what we have to do to win," Rizzo added. "But it's going to have to work for us in the long term."