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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