Though there’s plenty of focus on the Nationals’ reported $300MM extension offer to Bryce Harper late in the season — which the outfielder passed up in order to test free agency — the Nats have also looked at the possibility of an extension for fellow star Anthony Rendon, per Jesse Dougherty and Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. Nats GM Mike Rizzo said yesterday that the club has “made efforts” to extend Rendon before he reaches free agency next offseason. Rendon, like Harper, is represented by Scott Boras and figures to have a jarring asking price of his own, though that specific number isn’t known. Of note, Rizzo adds that he doesn’t believe the two contract situations are contingent upon each other, and Dougherty notes that the GM believes the payroll could support a new contract for both players.
More Nats chatter…
- Janes quotes Rizzo in suggesting that the Nationals are looking to add a “frontline catcher” to the roster for the 2019 campaign — that is, one who can catch 120-plus games (Twitter link). It’s only natural that J.T. Realmuto’s name will continue to be tied to the Nationals, given the extensive interest they’ve reportedly shown in him over the past 12 months. They’ll presumably have to explore alternatives, though, as Rizzo himself noted that they’ve been talking about Realmuto for a year without a trade to show for it. (Past reports have indicated that the Marlins asked for Juan Soto and/or Victor Robles in negotiations.)
- Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos are the top catchers on the free-agent market (MLBTR Free Agent Tracker link), though if the club is specifically looking for a catcher who can handle roughly 75 percent of the team’s games in 2019 and beyond, then Ramos may not be a great fit. He’s a fan favorite in Washington, but he’s also suffered a pair of ACL tears in his career and was limited to 96 games behind the plate this past season between the Rays and Phillies. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd took a further look at the offseason market for catchers as part of MLBTR’s Market Snapshot series.
- Meanwhile, Dougherty tweets that Rizzo said he’s comfortable with Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo at second base for the time being and doesn’t view an upgrade at the position to be a top offseason priority. A ruptured Achilles tendon cost Kendrick the final four and a half months of the 2018 campaign, but the 35-year-old has been undeniably productive in parts of two seasons with the organization. In 338 plate appearances as a National, Kendrick has slashed .297/.337/.484. It’s anyone’s guess how he effective he’ll be in his return from a major injury suffered in his mid-30s, however, and Difo didn’t give much reason for optimism this past season. The switch-hitter managed just a .230/.298/.350 line in 456 plate appearances. He’ll turn 27 in April. If the Nats do look to add, they’ll have no shortage of options, though (Free Agent Tracker link; Market Snapshot at second base)
- Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com takes a look at the Nationals’ payroll commitments in an effort to determine how much the club can realistically add to the books in terms of 2019 salary. With roughly $168MM already lined up for next season via seven guaranteed contracts, seven arbitration projections and another 11 pre-arb players, the Nats are about $13MM shy of their 2018 payroll at present. Zuckerman points out that the team’s payroll has increased for 11 consecutive seasons but also notes that ownership could want to steer clear of a third consecutive foray into luxury tax territory. He projects a rough estimate of $20-30MM that could be added while staying under that barrier, though certainly trades and non-tenders present avenues to add further flexibility. Importantly, too, that $168MM-ish figure includes larger-than-average salary outlays for Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. From a cash perspective, most of what’s owed those two pitchers is deferred; as regards the luxury tax, the AAV on those deals is lower — thus leaving something in the realm of $10MM of added cushion. Just how the Nats’ top decisionmakers view the payroll situation isn’t entirely clear.