Discussions and speculation surrounding how the Nationals will look on Opening Day of their first World Series title defense begin and end with free agents Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon.
Considered two of the top three players available along with Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole, Rendon and Strasburg will both command massive paydays wherever they decide to sign.
To this point, reports have suggested a marriage between Strasburg and the Nationals could happen as soon as the start of the winter meetings.
But what about Rendon? Jesse Daugherty of the Washington Post and Jamal Collier of MLB.com joined Todd Dybas on the Nationals Talk Podcast to break down his best options and the level of interest he could have in returning to DC.
"I think the one most intriguing option for me that seems to make sense is that Justin Turner has said he'll move off third [base] for LA [Dodgers] and the Dodgers are known to offer low-year, high AAV deals which is something that probably seems attractive to Rendon, who has told us many a time he'd like to retire by 35," Daugherty said.
If we can take Rendon's word on retiring at 35, this contract may be his last. One major hurdle for him could be the depth at third base across the league, especially on contending teams.
"Most teams don't need [a third baseman]," Daugherty said. "The Phillies need one, the Braves need one, I guess the Dodgers need one if Turner's willing to move, but [the third base market] really is hard for me to gauge."
Meanwhile, Collier speculates that a natural fit for Rendon would be his home-town team.
"A team that potentially could be a player for Rendon and one that makes a lot of sense is Texas [Rangers]," Collier said. "Obviously the home state, coming into a new ballpark, they should have money to spend, and I think it's a place that he would want to play at."
Every player wants to get paid, but there are often intangible factors that convince them to take a discount. Whether it's comfortability, saving your owner money to keep a contender together or playing close to home, not every player is won over by a huge contract offer.
While that may be the case with Strasburg, it doesn't appear Rendon puts as much stock in those things.
"All those things we said about Strasburg in the comfort and the idea that he likes it [in Washington], I think those things are also true for Rendon," Collier said. "I think if all things were equal, I think the Nats would hold some sort of tiebreaker over most teams. The comfort of DC is probably in his factors but probably won't weigh as heavily as it will with Strasburg.
"The money has to be equal if the Nats are going to be there," Collier said.
So no matter how much the Nationals may want to bring both Rendon and Strasburg back for a team-friendly price, they'll have to play by the same rules as everyone else.
If they don't want to pay up for Rendon, their options to replace him are notably slim.
"Someone is going to throw a lot of money to Rendon," Collier said. "He’s been a 5, 6 win player per season and probably will be for the next few years. One of the best players in baseball is going to get some play, but not sure where."
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