Nationals “have emerged as the favorite” for Prince Fielder

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Washington may not have been Prince Fielder’s first choice, but Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the Nationals “have emerged as the favorite” to sign the free agent first baseman.

Last month general manager Mike Rizzo downplayed Washington’s interest in Fielder, saying that Adam LaRoche was the team’s starting first baseman, but last offseason the Nationals signed a Scott Boras client, Jayson Werth, to a $126 million contract and Boras also represents Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

Haudricourt doesn’t offer any details about dollar figures or contract length, but there’s been lots of previous speculation that Fielder will have to settle for a shorter-term deal than Boras is seeking.

LaRoche is owed $8 million this season with a $10 million option or $1 million buyout for 2013, but missed all but 43 games last year with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

Mets invite Tim Tebow to spring training

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Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.

Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.

Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.