Nationals fans have certainly grown accustomed to their team’s attempts at retaining its top players by now. Stephen Strasburg signed a 7-year, $175 million contract entering the 2016 season and Bryce Harper is being pursued by nearly half the Major Leagues right now.
Next season, they’ll go through the same process again with star third baseman Anthony Rendon. That is, unless they can come to an agreement early, something agent Scott Boras wouldn’t rule out during his press scrum at this year’s Winter Meetings.
When asked about his client potentially signing an extension prior to spring training next season, Boras told reporters Rendon “has made it known he’s open to listening to what the Nationals say.”
Nats fans would certainly love to see this come to fruition, with many seeing him as an even higher priority than Harper given his position. Washington is of course flushed with young, controllable talent in the outfield, yet don’t have as many clear replacement options in the infield.
Boras’ clients typically wait until free agency arrives in order to maximize their contracts, though of course, Strasburg represents a willingness to sign an early extension if the terms are right.
Rendon was drafted by the Nationals with the 6th overall pick in the 2011 draft after a standout career at Rice. He likely only even fell as far as he did due to injury concerns, and while he has dealt with occasional stints on the disabled list in Washington, it hasn’t been a real long-term concern. He’s certainly proven himself to be a valuable selection, as his career Wins Above Replacement is higher than any player selected ahead of him, and behind only Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor among players drafted in 2011.
Rendon has flown under the radar from a national perspective, something Boras is quick to point out when discussing his client.
“Again, he has been in the top 10 players in the game for the last three or four years,” Boras explained. “For Anthony, the recognition that he’s received for his performance has, for whatever reason, not been to the level of his talent, and just this offseason I think people are starting to really recognize what type of player he is.”
“He’s really an MVP-type player, and certainly I think the Nationals are aware of who he is.”
Since 2014, Anthony Rendon only failed to lead Nationals position players in WAR twice, and once was his injury-plagued 2015 season. The other was Daniel Murphy’s terrific 2016 year. In 2014 and 2017 he was the most valuable National overall, and this past season he was behind only Max Scherzer.
In other words, despite playing on a team with Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Daniel Murphy, and others over the last half a decade, Rendon has been the most consistently valuable position player in the organization and hasn’t been too far behind Max Scherzer overall.
Rendon is already 28, so while he doesn’t have the same extreme youth appeal as Harper does this offseason, he still has many years left in his prime. There are plenty of obvious reasons why the Nationals would want to keep him around long term. His agent thinks there would be clear reasons for Rendon to want to stick around too.
“I think any player ideally wants to be in one place for a long time, and also to establish his legacy,” Boras shared during his press conference. “Part of free agency is to bring about goals of the player, and I think for anyone that’d be a goal.”
Now, to be clear, that quote came in response to a question about Bryce Harper, but it’s hard not to see the parallels with Rendon. The star third baseman is also in position to potentially spend his entire career starring for the same organization, and while he doesn’t have quite the level of brand recognition as Harper, he still comes with pedigree and plenty of talent.
Anthony Rendon as a lifetime National would be almost as impactful as Bryce Harper off the field, and potentially more so on the field.
Ultimately, both sides may want to get something done, but the allure of open free agency can be pretty appealing. Boras hasn’t gone into detail yet with Rendon, but these things can get done pretty quickly if both parties find themselves motivated.
“I haven’t really discussed with Anthony what his intentions are,” Boras told NBC Sports Washington. “I know that he has instructed me to listen to anything at all that the Nationals want to propose and discuss, and once I receive that information I’ll forward it to Anthony. Then he and his family will let me know what to do with it.”
At the end of the day, it will be Rendon’s decision if he wants to continue to make the nation’s capital his home.
The Nationals would certainly enjoy the peace of mind an early extension would bring. Avoiding a second straight season full of questions from fans about the lingering free agency of one of their team’s biggest stars would be an added bonus.
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