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Will Nationals jump onto sudden trend of handing out contract extensions?

Will Nationals jump onto sudden trend of handing out contract extensions?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- January’s barely beeping pulse inspired baseball executives to enter into two lines of thought. First, they questioned the sanity of some agents. Free agent pitchers who ended up signing one-year deals in February were forced into that position after turning down multi-year deals in December. Second, they thought the winter’s chill would prompt an embrace of contract extensions.

Little did they know how right they were.

Nolan Arenado. Blake Snell. Mike Trout. Paul Goldschmidt. Chris Sale.

Whit Merrifield. Alex Bregman. Eloy Jimenez.  Jose Leclerc. Miles Mikolas.

From young to old, established to projected, pitcher to position player. Extensions have hit across every level of the market, flipping baseball’s expenditures from limited to vast. And it has a direct correlation to the Nationals.

Washington is trying to work an extension with Anthony Rendon.

General manager Mike Rizzo said Saturday there’s “nothing new” in negotiations, but both sides continue to be open to it. The Nationals have approached Trea Turner about an extension in the past. When it was suggested, half-jokingly during the offseason, that it may be time to talk to Juan Soto about an extension, an executive suggested the idea was not as far-fetched as it sounds.

Just like the current transition to extensions above free agency includes the gamut of players, options for the Nationals run from young to old. Soto and Victor Robles could be targeted to have their arbitration years bought out in exchange for a give of possible free agency seasons. Turner has three arbitration years remaining. Scherzer has two years remaining on his contract following this season. Justin Verlander’s percolating extension -- recent reports pegged it at two years, $66 million -- suddenly becomes a model for Scherzer.

The shift is rapid and seismic.

“It doesn't surprise me at all,” Rizzo said. “Good players, you're trying to lock up your good players and I think that when you treat them fairly and both sides can agree on something, I think it's good for the game."

Suggestions Stephen Strasburg left a lot of money on the table immediately accompanied his surprise contract extension in 2016. Reasons why Strasburg, a Scott Boras client, chose an opt-out laden deal well before free agency included comfort and familiarity. The money was also good: $175 million. It’s right in line with what Patrick Corbin received this offseason, three years after Strasburg opted for an extension. The deal looks more than palatable now.

What’s interesting is it remains an outlier because of the agent involved. Boras is not prone to extensions. Of the 18 players to sign extensions this calendar year, none are Boras clients, unlike so many in the Nationals clubhouse. Soto is. Rendon is. Scherzer is. Turner is not. Will Boras come along with the shift?

"I just think that players, the representatives and the players are more in-tune to what the economics of the game are now than they have ever been,” Rizzo said when asked in general why this is happening. “These guys know what they are talking about, they know what the market looks like, and I think they are making good, prudent decisions for their own personal careers."

Would Rizzo look at it with Soto and Robles?

“I think that, like I said, we have a blueprint and a plan in place and keeping your talent is a huge part of that plan,” Rizzo said. “We're open to all sorts of ideas that keep us viable and competitive for the long haul."

That includes buying out arbitration years in the right scenario.

"I think that as a rule of thumb, I think that when you buy out arbitration years, I like to get a free agent year or two tacked onto it to make that make sense to me,” Rizzo said. “But other teams do it different ways, and I think to take on the risk of buying out arbitration... it controls your payroll and you know where you're at, but I think that tacking on a free agent year shares the risk more evenly."

So, we know the internal possibilities. We know Rizzo’s stance on the idea. We also know the environment has changed. Washington has a chance to change the future with it.


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Washington Nationals Roundup: Stephen Strasburg saves Nationals from series sweep

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Stephen Strasburg saves Nationals from series sweep

With 11 strikeouts and only two hits in eight innings, Stephen Strasburg contained the Marlins to nothing as the Nationals won 5-0 in Miami. Here are the latest news and notes after Sunday’s victory.

Player notes:

Anthony Rendon remains day-to-day after being hit on his left elbow by a pitch Saturday. He left Saturday’s game and missed Sunday’s outing as well. Howie Kendrick, his replacement thus far, finished the series against Miami going 1-for-3 with a single RBI.

Stephen Strasburg posted double-digit strikeouts for the first time this season (11). Strasburg dropped his ERA by almost 1.5 runs, and is expected to start next against the Padres. That series begins Friday, April 26.

Ryan Zimmerman went 2-for-4 with two home runs. He tallied two RBIs as well.


3B Anthony Rendon: Elbow hit by pitch, day-to-day

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, 10-day IL

RP Justin Miller: Back, 10-day IL

SS Trea Turner: Finger, 10-day IL

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, 10-day IL

Coming Up:

Monday, 4/22: Nationals @ Rockies, 8:40 p.m. ET, Coors Field

Tuesday, 4/23: Nationals @ Rockies, 8:40 p.m. ET, Coors Field

Wednesday, 4/24: Nationals @ Rockies, 3:10 p.m. ET, Coors Field


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3 things to watch when the .500 Nationals head to Colorado

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3 things to watch when the .500 Nationals head to Colorado

The Nationals face the Rockies at Coors Field for the first half of this work week. Here are three things to watch for:

  1. Can the Nationals stay above .500? Stephen Strasburg’s impressive start along with Ryan Zimmerman’s two homers and two RBI kept Washington from being swept by the lowly Marlins.

  2. Who will produce with Anthony Rendon out? While the Nats 3B was sidelined with an elbow injury after being hit by a pitch in Saturday’s outing against the Marlins, Howie Kendrick started in his place. Kendrick went 1-for-3 vs Miami with one RBI and one strikeout. In terms of replacing Rendon’s hitting prowess, Victor Robles has started a streak of his own. The youngster is hot on a seven game hit streak, including a bunt over the infield Sunday.

  3. Will the Nationals ever sure up their end game? Yesterday’s ninth inning was on the brink of disaster. Kyle Barraclough allowed back-to-back walks, then Sean Doolittle loaded the bases. Luckily for the Nats, crisis averted.

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