The Washington Nationals — playing the Milwaukee Brewers in Tuesday night's NL wild card game — are reportedly attempting to keep one of the biggest names on this winter’s free-agent market from getting there in the first place.
Just like they did last year with Bryce Harper, the Nationals reportedly made a contract offer to third baseman Anthony Rendon, a seven-year deal around $210 million or $215 million, per the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga. And, supposedly, it was a less back-loaded offer than the one made to Harper, meaning potentially more attractive to Rendon and his agent, Scott Boras (who is also Harper’s agent). Per Svrluga, it’s unlikely that Rendon would accept this offer and likely he’ll be on the market this winter.
What does this have to do with the White Sox? Well, that depends on whether they have Rendon in their offseason sights or not.
Rendon is slated to be the best and most expensive position player on the market this winter, arguably the best chance for the White Sox to make a splash like they tried to make last offseason with Manny Machado. Rendon has quietly put up MVP-caliber numbers over the past several seasons, the owner of a .310/.397/.556 slash line, 83 home runs and 318 RBIs in the last three years. In 2019, he finished with a .319/.412/.598 line, a career-high 34 home runs, an NL-best 44 doubles and a major league leading 126 RBIs. He was the only big leaguer to drive in more runs than Jose Abreu.
So obviously that’s something all 30 teams would love to have in their lineup. The White Sox, of course, have a third baseman and a very good one in Yoan Moncada. He was one of several White Sox who transformed his game, going from 217 strikeouts and a disappointing 2018 season to the status of the team’s best all-around player. Moncada finished the 2019 season with a .315/.367/.548 slash line, 25 home runs and 79 RBIs, with nearly 60 fewer strikeouts than he had the season prior.
Of course, in their quest to add an impact player from outside the organization, having a position spoken for didn’t stop them from chasing Machado last winter. Tim Anderson made up for the team missing out on the free-agent shortstop by having a tremendous season that ended with him winning the major league batting title. But had the White Sox been able to land Machado, Anderson (or perhaps Moncada) might have been playing a different position this season.
Could the same strategy be on the docket this winter if they have the opportunity to land Rendon? General manager Rick Hahn didn’t exactly close the door on pursuing a player who plays the same position as one of the White Sox young stars in the making.
“The talent pool is a little different, free agent-wise this offseason, but I'm not going to say we won't be creative in a couple elements, whether it's via trade or free agency,” he said. “Our roster does have a little bit of flexibility in it, and we hope in the coming years to have more flexibility built in in terms of different positions that guys can go out and play.
“That said, if we wind up breaking with Moncada at third, TA at short and Eloy (Jimenez) in left, (James) McCann behind the plate. If Jose (Abreu) is back, him at first or DH, we're going to feel real good about that initial start. It's going to be a matter of augmenting them at those specific positions I didn't name.”
Rendon might not be quite as attractive as Machado and Harper were last winter. Those two were 26-year-old superstars looking for decade-long deals, and they got them. Rendon has been as productive, but he’ll turn 30 midway through the 2020 season. What effect that has on the White Sox interest, who knows.
The White Sox also have several specified areas they’re looking to address this winter, with Hahn saying the team will look to add a right fielder, a designated hitter and a couple starting pitchers. That’s a hefty to-do list to also add Rendon to.
If the White Sox are looking to bring in the single best position player on this winter’s free-agent market, something they seemed intent on doing last offseason, then it would make sense to keep an eye on Rendon. But if they’re more concerned with filling holes, then Rendon, a third baseman, might not be in the cards.