Nationals pursue Prince Fielder for first base

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While the Nationals have long maintained that Adam LaRoche would reclaim the first-base job in 2012, they’ve always been looked at as potential bidders for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder anyway. From Ken Rosenthal comes word that the Nationals have indeed engaged in talks with Fielder, but that those talks hit a roadblock today.

Fielder, coming off a third-place finish in the NL MVP balloting, is believed to be looking for something like $200 million over eight years on the open market. It’s a price the Nationals could conceivably pay for an established franchise player to go along with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper as the faces of the team’s future. Rosenthal, though, suggests that the Nationals may soon move on to Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes instead.

Cespedes, whose price tag figures to eclipse $50 million, would be an even bigger gamble for the Nationals than for other teams, because the Nats would need him to stay in center and play in between Harper and Jayson Werth in their 2013 outfield. Many suitors view Cespedes as a better option in right field.

Fielder appears to have only a limited number of suitors at the moment, so the Nationals may be better off lingering in the weeds and seeing if his price tag tumbles a bit. It’d be one thing to pay the portly slugger $25 million per year; it’s going to seven or eight years on such a deal that would make it terribly risky.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.