In most every story written about premier free agent first baseman Prince Fielder, the Washington Nationals are listed as one of the teams pursuing him.
Some suggest the team is making the 27-year-old a signing priority while others say they are at least in the mix.
If the Nationals were to somehow sign Fielder, he will end up costing them more than $20 million a year. Does that make sense for Washington, who still controls Adam LaRoche for another year?
Here are the two player's stats based on their last five years and based on a playing 162 games (LaRoche's numbers are based on 2006-2010 because of his injury-shortened 2011 campaign):
Fielder: .284/.400/.537, 38 home runs, 112 RBI
LaRoche: .273/.343/.493, 29 home runs, 99 RBI
Over the course of a full season, Fielder will reach base 39 more times than LaRoche, will hit 9 more home runs and drive in 13 more runs.
Defensively, Fielder is adequate and LaRoche, while not a Gold Glover, is close to it.
Adam LaRoche will earn $8 million in 2012 while Fielder will probably sign a contract worth $23 million or so over seven or eight years.
Is that additional offensive production (roughly one run every 12 games) worth the extra $15 million, especially when those extra 13 runs will probably be offset by Fielder's so-so glove?
LaRoche--assuming he is healthy this season--will hit 25 or so home runs and drive in close to 100 runs. Next season, Michael Morse will return to first base and the top-rated prospect in all of baseball--Bryce Harper--will take over in left.
And with the $15 million that the Nationals would save by not signing Prince Fielder, the Nationals could acquire a top-of-the-line center fielder.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to do nothing. The Nationals can contend in 2012 with Adam LaRoche at first. Prince Fielder would be little more than decoration for the Nationals.
Very expensive decoration.