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.

Report: Welington Castillo to be suspended 80 games for violating Joint Drug Agreement

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic confirms a report from journalist Américo Celado that White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will be suspended 80 games for violating baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement. Castillo was believed to have used a steroid, but according to Rosenthal, the substance was not a steroid. More details should come on Thursday.

Castillo, 31, entered Wednesday’s action batting .270/.314/.477 with six home runs and 15 RBI in 118 plate appearances. He has gotten the bulk of the work behind the plate, backed up by Omar Narváez.

Castillo’s absence will likely prompt the White Sox to call up Kevan Smith from Triple-A Charlotte. Smith battled an ankle injury in March and April, so he got a late start to the season. In 102 PA at Triple-A, he has hit .283/.343/.457.