Phillies

Phillies free-agent target: Anthony Rendon

Phillies free-agent target: Anthony Rendon

Leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game’s top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.

Today, it's the top position player on the market: Anthony Rendon.

The vitals

Rendon first turned heads back in 2014. He was a dynamic player in 2017 and 2018, but this past season, he was just about the perfect position player.

Rendon hit .319/.412/.598 with 44 doubles, 34 homers and a MLB-leading 126 RBI despite missing 16 games. He did all of that damage while striking out just 86 times. Add in the solid defense and he's become one of the five best position players in the game today.

He only added more dollars to his free-agent score in the 2019 playoffs by hitting .328 with three homers and 15 RBI in 17 games en route to a ring.

The stat that epitomized Rendon in 2019 was that his batting average didn't dip below .300 once after April 1, nor did his OPS dip below .916. He was basically slump-proof.

Why he fits

The Phillies obviously need a third baseman and this market just so happens to offer three of the best. Rendon is top-two at his position leaguewide, Josh Donaldson top-seven, and Mike Moustakas is a tier slightly below Donaldson but perhaps more reliable.

If the Phillies could somehow add Rendon, they'd have an incredible duo batting 2-3 or 3-4. Many would say, "Yeah, they had that in Washington, too," but that ignores the fact that Rendon has evolved into a much better player than he was during those years.

Think about a Phils lineup of Andrew McCutchen leading off, Bryce Harper batting second and Rendon third. You'd have a ton of OBP at the top, followed by a clutch, line-drive hitter who thrives with runners in scoring position and barely swings and misses.

It could catapult the Phillies' win projection to the upper-80s, but many teams will be hotly pursuing Rendon.

Why he doesn't fit

Can any organization sign a player for $330 million one offseason and about $275 million the next? It's just not a path to sustainable success unless you hit on almost every mid-tier move and under-the-radar acquisition.

The Rangers are expected to offer Rendon, a Texas native, a ton of money as they open their new ballpark in 2020. The Nationals will do their best to retain him. The Dodgers could very well be in play. The presence of even two of those teams will make matters difficult for the Phillies.

The price tag

Nolan Arenado signed an eight-year, $260 million extension with the Rockies in February. If Rendon wants to play eight more years, why would his deal be for a dollar less?

Arenado and Rendon are comparable players, especially when you factor Coors Field out of the equation. If you believe the defensive metrics, the gap between the two has shrunk even though Arenado is still a perennial Gold Glover.

Rendon is a better overall player than Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. His deal probably won't reach $300 million, though, because he's three years older than they were when they hit free agency a year ago.

Scout's take

"Everyone thinks he's going to Texas to help open that new ballpark. He's a real quiet leader, not demonstrative like others at that position. There's fire but it burns internally. He's a real pro and, obviously, a difference maker."

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At the Yard podcast: Where will Didi Gregorius bat? Are Phillies done?

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At the Yard podcast: Where will Didi Gregorius bat? Are Phillies done?

Where will Didi Gregorius hit in the Phillies' order? How will the infield defense be aligned? Are the Phillies done? Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman discuss on Wednesday's At the Yard podcast.

• Surprised it was a 1-year deal?

• Why a 1-year deal carries so much value for the Phillies.

• Will Kingery play 2B or 3B?

• Could Segura be dealt?

• Where might Didi bat in the order?

• An interesting Phillies-Yankees trade idea from Jim.

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Phillies obviously better with Didi Gregorius, Zack Wheeler and Joe Girardi, but was this enough?

Phillies obviously better with Didi Gregorius, Zack Wheeler and Joe Girardi, but was this enough?

Didi Gregorius is a fun addition for the Phillies. His personality and the joy he plays with will quickly make him a fan favorite. He'll improve the clubhouse dynamic and he'll improve the Phillies' infield defense and lineup.

At one year, what's not to like? It's a one-year, $14 million contract for Gregorius, according to Jim Salisbury, which gives the Phillies an entire year to figure out their infield. Where does Jean Segura fit? What about Scott Kingery? When will Alec Bohm be ready? Can Rhys Hoskins, the most important hitter of them all, turn it around in 2020?

By tying themselves to Didi for only one year, the Phillies can pivot quickly if this does not work out, or if a second base/third base combo of Jean Segura and Scott Kingery does not provide enough offense. Bohm is the other major factor in all of this — if his defense can hold at third base for even a few years during the early part of his career, and if his power and control of the strike zone can translate to the majors, he could be the run-producing five-hole hitter this Phillies team needs.

Before Bohm arrives, though, the question is whether the Phillies' eight projected everyday players represent a contending lineup. It will likely shake out like this. Focus more on the names than the batting order because of how many variations there could be:

1. Andrew McCutchen, LF (R)
2. Didi Gregorius, SS (L)
3. J.T. Realmuto, C (R)
4. Bryce Harper, RF (L)
5. Rhys Hoskins, 1B (R)
6. Jean Segura, 2B (R)
7. Scott Kingery, 3B (R)
8. Adam Haseley, CF (L)

Given the current composition of the rest of the Phillies' roster, this looks like a mid-80s-win team at first glance. A team that projects for 85 to 87 wins with a chance to crack 90 if many things break right. 

If Hoskins rebounds. 

If Kingery becomes a valuable everyday offensive contributor. 

If McCutchen has a full season as productive as his pre-injury work in 2019. 

If the Aaron Nola-Zack Wheeler duo combines for 400 innings with an ERA in the low 3.00s.

If Bohm and Spencer Howard force the Phillies' hand by playing well.

If we see second-half Realmuto and Harper in 2020.

If Jake Arrieta can be more of a No. 3 than a No. 5.

If the Phillies find and settle on a reliable 8th inning-9th inning combination.

The Phillies are unquestionably better now than they were at the end of the 2019 season. Gregorius is a better and more impactful than the player he's basically replacing, Cesar Hernandez. Wheeler is the No. 2 starter the Phillies desperately needed. New manager Joe Girardi may be able to add a win or two here and there with good decision-making.

They are better. The question is how much better. Good enough to push the Nationals and Braves for the division? That would seem an optimistic viewpoint of this Phillies roster, but they can still tinker with their core throughout the offseason by adding another starting pitcher like Wade Miley, a high-upside reliever like Dellin Betances and another good hitter for the bench.

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