Phillies

What to make of Nationals' reported 7-year offer to Anthony Rendon

What to make of Nationals' reported 7-year offer to Anthony Rendon

For the second straight year, the Nationals have reportedly offered a long-term deal to one of their soon-to-be-free-agent superstars.

The Nats, according to the Washington Post, have offered third baseman Anthony Rendon a seven-year deal worth between $210 million and $215 million.

Last year around this time, the Nationals floated a 10-year, $300 million offer to Bryce Harper. Like the Rendon offer, it was one that sounded good but was almost designed to fail ahead of free agency. The Harper proposal included deferred money all the way through 2052. According to the Post, the Rendon offer was more similar to Max Scherzer's seven-year, $210 million deal, which has deferred money that will be paid off within seven years of its expiration date.

Still, there's no reason for Rendon to forego free agency at this point.

"If you're giving me the opportunity and saying I'm this close from going to go car shopping from multiple lots, instead of staying in one lot, I mean, what would you do?" Rendon said in a radio interview on 106.7 The Fan in D.C. in July.

Rendon, like Harper, is a Scott Boras client. So, too, is the top pitcher in this winter's free-agent market, Gerrit Cole. Our Phillies insider, Jim Salisbury, mentioned on Monday's "At the Yard" podcast that there is an appetite on Boras' part to funnel one of those players to the Phillies, an organization with substantial resources and Boras' most high-profile client: Harper.

While $210-215 million over seven years is an insane amount of money, it's probably not the most Rendon will find. In February, Nolan Arenado signed an eight-year, $260 million extension with the Rockies. Arenado is 10 months younger than Rendon and is a more high-profile player, but Rendon might be the better player. His production has been similar to Arenado's over the last three seasons without Rendon playing half his games at Coors Field.

Over those three seasons (2017-19), Rendon has hit .310/.397/.556 with averages of 43 doubles, 28 homers, 106 RBI and 95 runs scored.

Over that same span, Arenado has hit .307/.375/.577 with averages of 37 doubles, 39 homers, 119 RBI and 102 runs scored.

Why would Rendon accept $50 million less?

Rendon is also coming off an MVP-caliber season, even if he figures to lose out to Cody Bellinger in the race. No player in the majors was more consistent than Rendon from Game 1 through Game 162. He maintained a batting average over .300 and an OPS of at least .996 from April 1 through the end of the season.

Rendon led the NL with 44 doubles and led the majors with 126 RBI despite missing 16 games. He set a career-high with 34 home runs, and he did this all while barely striking out. Rendon had 80 walks and whiffed just 86 times in 646 plate appearances.

This first offer from the Nationals won't necessarily be the last. Washington badly wants to keep Rendon. He is not only their best position player but also one of their enormous draft-and-develop success stories. Rendon was the Nats' first-round pick, sixth overall in 2011 out of Rice University. He was a very productive major-leaguer in his first full season back in 2014 but has just gotten better and better and better.

The Phillies could make a run at Rendon. They know they need to improve drastically to make up ground on the Braves and Nationals. What better way than by signing the top position player on the market while also stealing a huge bat from one of your rivals' lineups?

That contract, though, may come close to Harper's, either in total value, annual average value or both.

And consider this: If the Phillies sign Rendon to a contract paying $30 million annually, while also extending J.T. Realmuto this offseason to a deal that averages $20 million per year, then their payroll would be only about $10 million below the luxury tax threshold before they add a single pitcher. And pitching is quite obviously the biggest need.

As outlined here, a Rendon pursuit would be complicated for the Phillies. Their top prospect, Alec Bohm, plays third base. Bohm may need to move to first base eventually, which is Rhys Hoskins' position.

It will be another interesting offseason for the Phillies. It always is when you're one of the teams with the most money and biggest desire to improve.

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2020 Phillies schedule: Looking at long list of elite pitchers Phillies will face in 2020

2020 Phillies schedule: Looking at long list of elite pitchers Phillies will face in 2020

Bryce Harper spent the bulk of his video press conference last Friday discussing the unprecedented circumstances surrounding this 2020 MLB season. There were a lot of questions about health protocols, social distancing and doubt from some players that attempting to play this season is actually the right decision.

Harper talked a little baseball too. And one answer towards the end of the press conference stood out. 

He was asked whether he felt he'd have enough time in a three-week training camp featuring just three exhibition games to adequately prepare for the season. 

Harper acknowledged it would be a challenge, particularly given the Phillies’ regular season schedule.    

"East vs. East, are you kidding me?" Harper said of his team's 60-game slate consisting of solely NL East and AL East opponents. "We're going to face a lot of good teams, a lot of good organizations, a lot of good pitching. I went down each roster and was thinking to myself there could be 14 Cy Youngs in this East vs. East. I mean, that's crazy."

Harper's math is spot on. 

I identified 12 starting pitchers that the Phillies could face this season who have either won a Cy Young or are capable of pitching at a Cy Young level.

And if you add a pair of Harper's teammates — Aaron Nola, who finished third in the NL Cy Young voting in 2018, and Jake Arrieta, who won the NL Cy Young in 2015 — that brings the grand total of Cy Young caliber pitchers in this East vs. East format to ... 14. 

Just like Harper said. 

Let's run through all the big arms the Phillies could face in 2020. 

After a season-opening three-game series against the Marlins, the Phillies play four straight games against the Yankees. They'll almost certainly face Gerrit Cole and James Paxton during that four-game stretch. Cole, who signed a $324 million contract with New York in the offseason, is generally regarded as the most dominant starting pitcher in baseball. Paxton is fully recovered from a back injury in the spring and has been among the top starters in the American League over the last six years.

The Phillies get their first look at the Braves a week later. Atlanta's rotation features 22-year-old ace Mike Soroka and 36-year old veteran Cole Hamels. Soroka posted a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts last season, finishing sixth in the NL Cy Young voting and second in the NL Rookie of the Year race behind the Mets' Pete Alonso. Hamels has finished in the top 10 of the Cy Young voting four times in his career and remains an elite starter when healthy. 

The Mets come to town in mid-August, led by two-time reigning NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. New York's rotation also includes Marcus Stroman, who finished in the Top 10 of the AL Cy Young voting three years ago and finished with a 3.22 ERA in 32 starts last season. 

The Phillies don't play the Nationals until late August. But their 10 games against Washington will feature a heavy dose of three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin, who finished fifth in the NL Cy Young race two years ago and 11th in the voting last season. 

If there's a team that has a “Big 3” comparable to the Nationals, it may be the Rays, who the Phillies visit in a three-game series to end the season. Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow highlight Tampa Bay's rotation. Snell won the 2018 AL Cy Young, Morton finished third in the 2019 AL Cy Young race, and Glasnow is an emerging star who posted a 1.78 ERA in 12 starts last season.

Yikes. 

But there is a silver lining — the Phillies don't have to worry about Chris Sale, Luis Severino or Noah Syndergaard. They're all out for the season with injuries. 

Nonetheless, the Phillies' bats better be ready from the outset. They'll be put to the test early and often. 

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Bryce Harper has earned right to speak his mind on J.T. Realmuto's contract status

Bryce Harper has earned right to speak his mind on J.T. Realmuto's contract status

Bryce Harper provided the first memorable moment of Phillies summer camp on Wednesday afternoon. 

It wasn’t with a swing or a web gem, but rather it was two words that has everyone talking.

“Sign him!” 

That’s what Harper exclaimed as he returned to the dugout following a home run by J.T. Realmuto in an intrasquad game. 

Harper can claim to be a five-tool player, but you might be able to add a sixth tool to the arsenal because he’s been as effective a representative for Realmuto in contract negotiations as Jeff Berry, Realmuto’s agent. 

In addition to Wednesday’s on-field statement, Harper donned a t-shirt with Realmuto’s name and number during his initial workouts at Citizens Bank Park earlier this month. While Harper denied sending a message to the front office with his wardrobe, he did acknowledge that it would be “terrible and sad” if the Phillies were to lose Realmuto in free agency this offseason. 

If you want to argue that Harper’s actions and statement are an admirable attempt to help a teammate to a large pay day, that’s fair. It’s also likely that Harper views retaining Realmuto as the best path towards contention for the ballclub. 

The Phillies would be naive if they did not expect Harper to have a significant voice in team construction when they inked him to a 13-year, $330 million deal last year. Although it’s fair to assume they would prefer if Harper wasn’t hurting their negotiating position.  

Either way, a player of Harper’s stature and salary certainly has the right to speak his mind on roster matters.  

Let’s say Realmuto and the Phillies agree to a record-setting contract extension for a catcher. That would make the All-Star backstop the third nine-figure player on the Phillies’ payroll (Harper and Zack Wheeler). Keep in mind, this is an organization without a winning season since 2011 and that looks to be several key pieces away from true contention. 

Who knows where the Phillies will find themselves four years down the road? It’s possible Harper and Realmuto will have taken a late October ride or two down Broad Street in that time. It’s also possible that the club will have failed to take the next step in their development, the young pieces never reaching the level needed to contend. At that stage, the club could lack the flexibility to improve due its significant financial obligations. 

If the latter happens, let’s be clear: Harper has forfeited the right to justifiably complain about a perceived lack of commitment or a feeling of being misled about the intentions of ownership. It might be hyperbole to suggest the former NL MVP is forcing the Phillies’ hand with Realmuto, but he’s certainly making it known how he wants the team built. 

Harper does not appear to be that type of person that will turn on the Phillies if things do not go as hoped, but we’ve all been down this road before with unhappy superstars across the sporting landscape. 

It might not be an issue for today, but there’s a chance that day just may come.  

Stay tuned.

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