The Nationals signed right-hander Stephen Strasburg to a then-historic seven-year, $245 million contract on Monday, a few days after Washington owner Mark Lerner said the team could not afford to keep both Strasburg and star third-baseman Anthony Rendon.
So, after the team re-signed Strasburg, it seemed that the Nationals had made their decision regarding Rendon too.
But SiriusXM's Steve Phillips thinks the Nationals made the wrong choice.
"I probably would have gone position player and not the pitcher, just because of predictability," Phillips said in an interview Wednesday morning with NBC Sports Washington. "It's a seven-year commitment, it's a big commitment. Stephen Strasburg had a remarkable season this year, but it was the first time in the last five years that he's made 30 starts in a season, so his health has been a bit of a challenge."
It does make sense that Strasburg signed with the Nationals before Rendon got close; Strasburg grew up in the organization and has given the team, and the fans, a lot to cheer about over the years. While his health has been a problem in the past, if the ace stays healthy the decision to re-sign Strasburg over Rendon could prove beneficial for the Nationals.
"When [Strasburg] is healthy, he's dynamic," Phillips said.
From a purely statistical perspective, both Strasburg and Rendon proved they have something worthy of the big bucks during the 2019 regular season and postseason.
Rendon had a breakout season in 2019, slashing .319/.412/.598 with the most doubles (44) and RBI (126) in the NL, enough to land him in third place in the NL MVP race and earn him his second silver slugger. (He also had a career-high 34 home runs).
It was also Rendon's third consecutive season batting above .300, and his strong swing proved key in the Nationals' World Series run -- he batted .328 and slugged .590 with three home runs and 15 RBI (and 11 walks) over the course of the postseason.
Meanwhile, Strasburg started 30 games in the regular season for the first time in five years, with a 3.32 ERA and a team-and career-high 251 strikeouts over 209 innings. He also held opposing batters to a .210 average.
Strasburg's postseason performance also proved noteworthy, continuing his success with a 1.98 ERA and 47 strikeouts over 36.1 innings pitched, putting him with a career 71 strikeouts and 1.46 ERA in the postseason.
And, though it is hard to compare statistics for pitchers and position players, both Strasburg and Rendon finished the season with a 6.3 WAR (wins above replacement).
There's no word yet as to where Rendon will end up by the end of free-agency, but Phillips thinks it's unlikely, albeit impossibly, he re-signs with the Nationals.
"You're going to look at the Rendon deal..as being extraordinary," Phillips said. "I think it's probably going to take the price tag over where the Nationals are going to be able to go. It may be that they're going to have to settle."
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