WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Anthony Rendon has noticed. Nolan Arenado, eight years, $260 million to stay in Colorado. Tuesday’s stunning news of Mike Trout’s gargantuan 12-year, $426 million deal. Both extensions.
Back at his locker Tuesday, the news about Trout’s deal spilled out from a flat screen TV in the middle of the Nationals’ vacant clubhouse. Rendon was tossing possessions into a cardboard box to send back to Washington a little more than a week before Opening Day. He pondered Trout’s deal.
“430?” Rendon said. “What do you do with all that money?”
That was an open-ended question, not an indication of Rendon’s negotiation philosophy when talking about a contract extension with the Nationals. Those discussions began more than a year ago. A new deal was offered in late February when Arenado, expected to provide the framework for a future Rendon deal in the District or elsewhere, re-upped with the Rockies. Rendon declined.
“We’ve had some talks in the past,” Rendon told NBC Sports Washington. “I think it’s kind of come to a halt lately. They had an offer out there [around the time of the Arenado deal]. It wasn’t to where we thought we should be. They said we’re going to continue to talk.”
Players appear to be reacting to two chilled winters of free agency, culminating with this offseason’s slog which delayed the conclusion of Bryce Harper’s pursuit of a new deal. The idea of signing an extension -- from upper- to middle-tier players -- is being re-embraced. Rendon has long considered the concept. He is also appreciative of the Nationals’ attempts to retain him.
However, it’s a unique situation considering the client. Recall Rendon made an early spring training statement by pointing out agent Scott Boras works for him, not the other way around. In addition, he’s focused on market value. Both ideas seem basic logic to him, and not specific to baseball. It’s an employee-employer relationship. This employee is paying an agent to work his contract into a place level with comparable employees at other organizations.
Multiple dynamics are at work. Rendon enters the final year of his contract relaxed about the idea he could remain in Washington or go elsewhere if negotiations don’t pan out. He’s continually touted as one of the game’s better players, despite his efforts to swat back recognition. Nationals managing principal owner Marker Lerner has a distinctly positive view of him.
“We love Tony to death,” Lerner told NBC Sports Washington earlier in spring training. “He’s certainly one of the greatest players in the game today. He’s an even finer person. His activities with the youth baseball academy back in D.C. are phenomenal. He does it under the radar. It’s very important to him. Just a great example of the way a professional athlete should conduct himself. Like I said, he’s one of my favorites for a reason.”
Rendon’s reticent public personality makes this a trickier process than most. Here’s what he is the last three seasons on average: 128 OPS-plus, 41 doubles, 23 home runs, premier defense at third base. Here’s what he is not: attached to the game as the end-all, be-all of his life.
“I feel like with those individuals -- with Arenado, when you have a talent like that who’s just as good as those other three guys that signed those big deals -- and Colorado understood that, so maybe they didn’t want to lose him,” Rendon said. “Whether that being Nolan saying he wanted to sign an extension because he didn’t want to test free agency or maybe it was Colorado saying that we don’t want to lose this awesome player that we have. So, I think the Angels maybe thought the same way because that guy is pretty good, too.
“But I think as long as -- I think if your identity is not in the game, if you’re who you are as a person, you’re not using this to base who you are as a person. … Unless your identity is in the game, I feel like you shouldn’t be looking for that. If [an extension] happens, it happens, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.”
Rendon revisited that last line at the close of the conversation: “If it happens…” Then drifted off.
The Nationals tried. Again. It hasn’t happened yet.
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