But a future without Fielder is not only feasible but perhaps better.
Such a future depends on several moving parts coming together for the Nationals. But it is a future that is within reach and -- with patience -- is a better long-term solution than investing another $100 million in one player, even if the team has money to burn.
It's bad business to have a roster loaded down four or five years from now with perhaps $40 million going to Fielder and Jayson Werth, Stephen Strasburg eligible for free agency and Bryce Harper qualifying for a big arbitration payday.
There's another way, though, and it starts with Ryan Zimmerman -- at first base.
A number of scenarios have been kicked around about the future of this team at first base, and you can be sure one of them involves Zimmerman -- a Gold Glove winner at third base two years ago who has had chronic throwing problems of late.
The Nationals didn't spend their No. 1 pick -- sixth overall -- in the 2011 draft on Anthony Rendon without plans for him to play a key role soon.
A third baseman who can play other infield positions, Rendon was the best hitter in college in 2010 but suffered shoulder and ankle injuries that dropped him to sixth in the draft this year. The Nationals are counting on him recapturing that 2010 form that made him such a productive hitter.
He will be 22 years old in June. Zimmerman was 21 when he began his first full season in Washington in 2006.
If Rendon delivers in Zimmerman-like fashion, you have an infield in 2013 that is not only talented enough to compete -- with Danny Espinosa at second base and Ian Desmond at short -- but also makes sound financial sense, leaving money to invest in a new deal with Zimmerman and perhaps long-term contracts for Strasburg and Harper if both perform as expected.
That's what we are talking about here -- 2013 and beyond. It would be fun if the Nationals compete this season, and they may. But center field remains an issue, and Strasburg will be on the same Tommy John recovery plan this season as Jordan Zimmermann was in 2011, which means a 160-inning pitch limit.
Come September, that could be a problem. Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter pitched 46 innings in September and another 36 in the postseason on the way to a World Series title.
Fielder certainly would make the Nationals better. His presence would make them much more competitive and may pave the way for postseason baseball in Washington. But it is not the only way to get there -- and may not be the best way.