Anthony Rendon

White Sox free agent focus: Moving things around to land Anthony Rendon

White Sox free agent focus: Moving things around to land Anthony Rendon

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Anthony Rendon, 3B, Nationals

Age: 29

2019 salary: $18,800,000

2019 stats: .319 BA, .412 OBP, .598 SLG, 1.010 OPS, 34 HR, 126 RBI, 117 R, 5/6 SB 

What Rendon would bring to the White Sox

Rendon was in Bryce Harper's shadow for much of his career, but over the last few years you can make the argument that he's surpassed Harper. Rendon showed some promise in his first four seasons in the majors, but really took a step forward in the last three seasons.

The third baseman has hit .310/.397/.556 over the past three seasons, including a 1.010 OPS this past season.

Rendon's arrival would likely send Yoan Moncada back to second base and could make Nick Madrigal an expendable trade chip for the White Sox. He could also give the White Sox one of the most feared lineups in baseball if Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert meet their potential.

What it would take to get him

Rendon isn't as young as Harper and Manny Machado were when they hit free agency, but he still could get more money per year than they did. Nolan Arenado's eight-year, $260 million deal is probably the best comparison you'll find considering they play the same position and have similar track records. Rendon is going to be among the highest-paid players in baseball.

Why it's unlikely for the White Sox

For starters, Rendon is likely out of range financially for the White Sox. He will command one of the most expensive deals in baseball, which isn't the kind of deal the White Sox have inked before.

On top of that, the infield of the future for the White Sox appears to be locked down. Jose Abreu's contract extension secured his future with the team at first. Nick Madrigal's arrival at second is imminent. At shortstop, Tim Anderson just won a batting title. Yoan Moncada moved to third in 2019 and had the best season of any White Sox hitter.

Rendon is too good to not consider adding if you have a chance, but the White Sox are likely to focus their efforts elsewhere where upgrades are more pressing like outfield and starting pitching.

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Cubs free agent focus: Anthony Rendon

Cubs free agent focus: Anthony Rendon

With Hot Stove season underway, NBC Sports Chicago is taking a look at some of MLB’s top free agents and how they’d fit with the Cubs.

Anthony Rendon is the top position player on the free agent market. Because he’s a third baseman, there’s no shot the Cubs — who have former MVP Kris Bryant manning the hot corner — sign the longtime Washington National, right?

There is a scenario where the Cubs could pursue Rendon. Let’s start with what makes the 29-year-old a desirable free agent.

In seven seasons, Rendon holds a career .290/.369/.490 slash line (.859 OPS), 126 OPS+ (league average is 100), 134 homers and 546 RBIs. He’s gotten even better since 2017, asserting himself as one of the game’s best third basemen. His averages from 2017-19:

.310/.397/.556 line (.953 OPS), 143 OPS+, 28 home runs and 106 RBIs

Rendon is also a solid defender and was named a 2019 Gold Glove Award finalist. Between his glove and bat, it’s easy to see why the Nationals offered him a seven-year extension worth $210-215 million in September — according to the Washington Post.

Roster Resource projects the Cubs’ 2020 payroll to be about $220 million, not counting any potential offseason moves. Unless they shed a bunch of salary this winter, the Cubs will exceed the luxury tax threshold for a second-straight season.

For the Cubs to sign Rendon, they’d have to clear salary and open up third base. Accomplishing both is possible by trading Kris Bryant, something the Cubs aren’t jumping up and down to do.

However, Bryant, Javier Báez and Kyle Schwarber are all set to his free agency after the 2021 season. The Cubs will eventually pick up Anthony Rizzo’s 2021 team option, the last year of his contract. Willson Contreras is a free agent after 2022.

The Cubs have approached members of their core in the past to discuss contract extensions. They successfully extended Rizzo in 2013, buying out his arbitration years. In February, they agreed to a four-year extension with Kyle Hendricks, who otherwise would’ve become a free agent after the 2020 season.

The Cubs will follow suit with the aforementioned position players and have reportedly begun negotiating a long-term deal with Báez. If Theo Epstein and Co. can’t extend him — or any of their stars they must consider trading them to ensure the Cubs don’t lose them in free agency for nothing.

Bryant filed a grievance against the Cubs in 2015 following the organization’s decision to keep him in the minor leagues one day past the service time threshold. Doing so meant Bryant wouldn’t hit free agency until after 2021, not 2020.

If Bryant wins his grievance case — which will be resolved this offseason — he’ll become a free agent after next season rather than in two years. This would put the Cubs in a tough spot, as Bryant could depart a year from now, should he and the Cubs fail to negotiate a long-term deal.

The Cubs still have time to negotiate a long-term deal with Bryant. Plus, his agent — Scott Boras — laid out at the GM Meetings why it’s unlikely the Cubs will deal the 27-year-old.

Nonetheless, the Cubs can’t risk losing Bryant (and others) for nothing. If they feel Bryant is unlikely to sign an extension, a trade can’t be out of the question. But that’s the only way to fit Rendon on the Cubs for the next half-decade plus, as he'd provide the club with cost certainty moving forward.

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White Sox don’t want to move Yoan Moncada, so what does that mean for Anthony Rendon?

White Sox don’t want to move Yoan Moncada, so what does that mean for Anthony Rendon?

Would the White Sox pursue Anthony Rendon?

It’s one of the many things they’re not taking off the table as they embark on what’s expected to be a busy offseason. But it doesn’t sound like they’re itching to make the necessary corresponding move: switching Yoan Moncada’s position for the second year in a row.

Of course, Rick Hahn doesn’t talk about specific free agents, meaning he doesn’t get asked about specific free agents, meaning there’s no definitive answer on whether the White Sox are even interested in Rendon, the top position player on the free-agent market this winter. The rumor mill is already churning, though, and they’ve been connected to the All-Star third baseman, among plenty of other big names.

But the White Sox have a third baseman in Moncada, and they really don’t want to move him again. However, if the right free-agent opportunity presented itself, maybe they would.

“We're not looking to move him again because we do think he's an MVP-caliber player over at third base and don't want to upset the apple cart with that,” Hahn said during the GM meetings last week in Arizona. “That said, he's also extraordinarily athletic and has the ability to play multiple other positions, whether it's second base, like you saw, or even potentially in the outfield, something that he's raised before.

“The general plan is to not mess with that, but we're at least going to go through this process and be open minded about, 'If we did this, what effect would that have on Moncada and how do we project him going forward at a different spot?' We project him awfully good at the spot he's at right now.”

Moncada had a breakout offensive season and at least appeared to play a good defensive third base in 2019 (even if some of the defensive metrics said otherwise). After striking out 217 times in his first full season in the major leagues in 2018, he blossomed into the White Sox best all-around hitter with a .315/.367/.548 slash line to go along with 25 homers, 34 doubles and 79 RBIs in 132 games.

Rendon, meanwhile, is a perennial MVP-type producer coming off a career year featuring a .319/.412/.598 slash line, 34 homers, 44 doubles and 126 RBIs. He also plays a very good third base, a Gold Glove finalist this year.

He’s the kind of player you rearrange your defense for.

The White Sox are looking for that kind of major splash, a guy who can help vault their rebuilding project into contention mode. Rendon is the type of middle-of-the-order bat who could do just that, and the opportunity to sign him might be too good to pass up. And though we’re throttling our way down Hypothetical Avenue, the White Sox would have to figure out where to put Moncada if they were able to sign Rendon.

Moncada’s versatility, as Hahn mentioned, could help with that. Moncada spent the 2017 season at second base, where he made a whopping 21 errors. Manager Rick Renteria revealed during the season that Moncada has said he can play the outfield, and Moncada himself said he’d play wherever the White Sox wanted him to play.

We also don’t have to guess at whether the White Sox would chase one of the best players in baseball despite their playing a position the team already has filled. They did it last winter, going after Manny Machado while Tim Anderson was seemingly entrenched at shortstop.

But with three stated goals on their offseason to-do list — right field, designated hitter and starting pitching — the White Sox don’t seem to be close to putting all their chips on Rendon's number.

Hence the staunch defense of keeping Moncada at third base. But, in what is emerging as a theme for the White Sox this winter, the door remains open to anything.

“In terms of moving Yoan, that's not a goal. We're not looking to move him,” Hahn said. “We think he's a really, really good third baseman and will be that for a long time.

“When we have players with flexibility and athleticism, you at least consider different permutations. We wouldn't be doing our job if there was a way for us to get better that we just ruled out because we have set at a certain spot.

“Part of it, though, and we don't take it lightly is: Moving him again defensively, what impact does that have on his performance? It's not an exact science, but it's a consideration. And given how good he's been this last year plus and the trajectory he's on, moving him is not something we take lightly.”

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