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All eyes turn to Anthony Rendon at the Winter Meetings after Gerrit Cole signs

All eyes turn to Anthony Rendon at the Winter Meetings after Gerrit Cole signs

SAN DIEGO -- News of Gerrit Cole’s gargantuan contract swept through the Winter Meetings late Tuesday night. A bustling lobby temporarily stalled as everyone looked at their phones then each other. It was true. Cole signed for $325 million to play in New York. 

Which means the third -- and for all intents and purposes final -- day of the meetings will focus on Anthony Rendon. He is now the premier player available in the free agent market. Cole and Stephen Strasburg signed. Rendon should be next.

Much of Tuesday before the Cole news revolved around Rendon. Agent Scott Boras stood atop a Pelican case -- a hard box used to protect television cameras -- in front of a Boras Corp. standing backdrop. There was symmetry between Boras on the box and what it usually holds. He’s naturally drawn to camera equipment.

There, ringed by reporters who largely couldn’t hear or just watched the spectacle, Boras spoke in generalizations about Rendon’s status. Yes, several teams have inquired about Rendon. Yes, seven years is the marker for a contract. Yes, negotiations are ongoing.

Where are the Nationals in this? That is more difficult to pin down. Rendon remains a curious challenge to read in the offseason. He made jokes at the World Series about not wanting to play until he was 35. He turns 30 years old next season. Does nostalgia have pull for him, either in Washington or back in Texas? Is it simply about money?

Asked about Nationals’ managing principal owner Mark Lerner saying the team could only afford Strasburg or Rendon, Boras moved to what has become the Deferred Money Defense. Around $80 million of Strasburg’s $245 million will be put off until after his contract ends. Boras contends wiggle room now exists for the Nationals. Reminder: it’s also his job to drive the market.

“I think Mark’s comments were before the Strasburg negotiations were complete,” Boras said. “And that contract structure that Stephen did allowed certainly an opening and a consideration that probably the Nationals were available to them in their decision making. So I think it’s something that clearly opens doors for them. And when you look at their payroll structure, and the amount of money they have in the $60-$70 million range with their payroll, I think they can sign not only an Anthony Rendon but many players.”

Mike Rizzo was slightly dismissive of Boras’ take when talking to reporters inside his hotel room suite. He’s often taken the position they know Rendon better than anyone, so the amount of times both sides converse is a bit overrated.

“We’ve had conversations about Anthony throughout the process,” Rizzo said. “I don’t get my daily update from Scott, but we’re in communication, and I don’t sense anything is imminent at this point. But that was a while ago, so you never know.”

Read that back. Rizzo talked about Rendon throughout, dropped a dig at Boras, stated nothing is imminent, then countered that claim by saying “you never know.” The last time he said no movement was imminent came almost a year ago. He traded Tanner Roark a couple hours later.

Rizzo is checking on trades, Josh Donaldson and piecemeal as possible Rendon alternatives. There is no equivalent player remaining on the market. So, a transaction involving him is now imminent, to borrow a word. It’s just a question of where.

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Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

If Ryan Zimmerman did not return to the Nationals, he at least would have a future teaching how not to negotiate.

Zimmerman openly drove down his bargaining leverage for almost a year before signing a one-year deal on Friday to return to the only professional team he’s known, a source confirmed. The deal is reported at $2 million.

Throughout the season, Zimmerman openly discussed his interest in returning and understanding it would be at a low rate. As if his stance wasn’t already clear, Zimmerman explained at a screening of the Nationals’ championship video he would return or play more golf.

“So, we’ll be good to go,” Zimmerman said.

It’s baseball for now. Zimmerman rejoins the defending World Series champions to play his 16th season. He’s a 35-year-old platoon player this season. Zimmerman’s money and legacy have been established. He’s back in the fold to pursue another title. 

And he makes an already old Nationals team older. Zimmerman turns 36 years old the day after the 2020 regular season ends. Howie Kendrick will be 37 years old by midseason. Asdrúbal Cabrera is 34 years old. Eric Thames is 33 years old. Will Harris is 35, Daniel Hudson 32, Sean Doolittle 33, Max Scherzer 35, Kurt Suzuki 36. Yan Gomes will be 33 just after the All-Star break. 

Zimmerman will share first base with Thames and, occasionally, Howie Kendrick. They provide an intriguing splits-based platoon. Thames hits right-handers well -- 23 of his 25 2019 home runs came against them, as did much of his opportunity in Milwaukee -- and Zimmerman has a .917 career OPS against left-handed pitchers. Zimmerman is the much better defender.

He’s back because he -- and the Nationals -- believe Zimmerman’s production remains directly tied to his health. His September and postseason work showed Zimmerman’s bat speed remains intact. He is quietly one of the better defensive first baseman in the league. They think they can protect him. Overall, the Nationals are so comfortable with an expanse of older players because they plan to shield them with limited usage. Also, Josh Donaldson went to Minnesota, clearing the cash and providing a need for Zimmerman. 

Kendrick, Cabrera and Starlin Castro can play various infield spots. Thames and Zimmerman will reduce the other’s role, as well as pinch-hit when not starting. Davey Martinez has options. He also has the challenge of rotating players. One thing on his side: older players know they are just that. Grousing about playing time should not be an issue with the group, the majority of which played as role players last year on the way to a World Series title. 

One other thing to note about Zimmerman: he’s 30 home runs short of 300. Can he get there with another two years on the field? He has at least one more to add to his total, assuring his driver has another lonely summer.

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Scott Boras vehemently disputes the Jose Altuve buzzer-cheating rumors

Scott Boras vehemently disputes the Jose Altuve buzzer-cheating rumors

Renowned MLB agent Scott Boras outright denied the buzzer-cheating rumors surrounding his client Jose Altuve, in an interview with TMZ.  The high-profile agent didn't mince words about the allegations. 

After Altuve hit the series-clinching walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS, the Astros' star appears to tell his teammates not to rip off his jersey. This led to rumors that he was hiding a device underneath it.

It's not factual," Boras said. "It's just innuendo."

There is nothing to any form of electronic dynamic," Boras told the reporter. "The Commissioner's office studied it. Everyone knows it."

Altuve publicly denied the rumors regarding the buzzer to help him tip pitches last weekend at the Astros' winter FanFest.

Altuve congratulated the Nationals on winning the World Series and believes everything from the fallout of the trashcan scandal will be resolved in due time.

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