Well, this never really was too much more than a long shot disguised as a more realistic shot, and all indications this afternoon are that we're about to be able to move on from Prince Fielder, as the USA Today's Bob Nightengale is reporting that the Rangers "believe they are out of the bidding for free-agent slugger Prince Fielder, according to a person with knowledge of the talks, but not authorized to speak publicly because of the ongoing negotiations.
Meanwhile, FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal has reported in the last hour that both the Marlins and Orioles are also out on Fielder, and ESPN.com's Jason Churchill has noted that the Mariners are out as well, while also indicating that Fielder and the Nationals may be moving towards an eight-year agreement. Nothing is official yet on this particular front, but it appears that the Nationals -- who were reportedly averse to tendering a seriously long-term offer -- have caved to the Fielder camp's demands for something spanning at least eight years. There's also no immediate word on whether key opt-out provisions would be integrated into the deal, but I daresay their inclusion wouldn't really surprise much of anyone.
[2:00 p.m. update: Per Yahoo! Sports' Tim Brown, the fabled "mystery team" has leapt out of nowhere, as the Tigers are now said to be "very close" to finishing up a nine-year deal with the Tigers.
2:05 p.m. update: According to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, Fielder is getting a nine-year, $214 million deal from the Tigers. That's not likely to turn out very well for Detroit.]
Assuming that the Rangers actually are done with Fielder and have no designs on further bolstering their first base situation, we can expect to see Mitch Moreland -- or possibly Brad Hawpe, should Moreland be delayed in spring training after coming off wrist surgery -- holding down first base the majority of the time this season, with Mike Napoli chewing up some plate appearances there on days that he's not catching, and Michael Young also receiving a decent-sized chunk of playing time. That amalgamation of parts isn't going to give you Fielder-esque production (or even a reasonable facsimile thereof), but it shouldn't kill the Rangers, either, and they should still end up going into the 2012 season as close favorites to win their third consecutive division championship.
Texas has been connected to Fielder for an extended period of time, and there have been times over the last few weeks where we've actually had some reason to feel a little confident about a deal being hammered out (e.g. after the surreptitious Fielder sighting at the Four Seasons resort in Dallas), but the reality is that the Rangers are justifiably skittish about going 7-8 years on Fielder, and that the team -- which currently projects to have an Opening Day payroll right around the $125 million mark -- is reportedly operating at a deficit as is. This is probably a case where both the baseball operations department and ownership are in lockstep as far as not wanting to commit to Fielder at a level above and beyond $20 million per year into the third decade of this millennium.