April 18: There’s still a “decent-sized gap” between Rendon’s asking price and what the Nationals are willing to offer, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). That said, the very fact that talks have continued into the season serves as a point of encouragement for Nats fans who are hoping to see Rendon locked up to a long-term pact.
April 16: The Nationals and third baseman Anthony Rendon met prior to tonight’s game to once again discuss a contract extension, MASNsports.com’s Mark Zuckerman first reported. Rendon met with not only general manager Mike Rizo but also managing principal owner Mark Lerner, per the report.
Like several other stars who’ve signed extensions over the past few months, Rendon is slated to reach free agency at season’s end. The increasingly prolonged nature of the free-agent process and colder-than-expected markets for even some of the game’s brightest stars have begun to push many players toward forgoing the entire process, however. Rendon would be the latest example, joining a list that includes the likes of Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale and Nolan Arenado.
Rendon, 28, is off to an otherworldly start to his 2019 campaign, entering play Tuesday with a .400/.460/.873 batting line. He’s already clubbed six homers and eight doubles in just 63 trips to the plate, and he’s walked nearly as many times as he’s punched out (six and eight, respectively).
The Nationals and Rendon avoided arbitration this winter by agreeing to an $18.8MM salary for his final season of club control. Any extension would figure to come with a substantial raise in terms of annual value; Rendon may not quite reach the heights attained by Arenado (seven years, $234MM) or fellow third baseman Manny Machado (10 years, $300MM), but those lofty investments nonetheless underscore that a merely modest raise isn’t likely to dissuade Rendon from exploring free agency. Rendon is two years older than Machado but is only 10 months older than Arenado, so perhaps the length of Arenado’s extension will serve as a potential comp in renewed negotiations.
As of late spring, Rendon was somewhat candid in telling NBC Sports’ Todd Dybas that negotiations had “kind of come to a halt” and that the Nationals’ offer “wasn’t to where we thought we should be.” The exact size of contract that Rendon and agent Scott Boras are seeking isn’t clear. Boras clients have a reputation for testing the market rather than inking long-term deals before reaching free agency, though it’s worth noting that the aforementioned Bogaerts extension represents a notable exception to that line of thinking. So, too, does Rendon’s teammate Stephen Strasburg, who signed a $175MM extension with the Nats just under three years ago — at a time time when he was also in his final season of club control.
The Nats have been luxury-tax offenders in each of the past two seasons, but the outlook in that regard is substantially more clear in 2020. Bryce Harper’s decision to sign with the division-rival Phillies and the potential departure of Ryan Zimmerman next winter clear large numbers off the books; the Nationals will also likely see Brian Dozier, Howie Kendrick, Matt Adams, Jeremy Hellickson and Tony Sipp become free agents at season’s end. Trea Turner represents their only significant arbitration raise on the horizon.
Presently, the Nats only have about $110MM worth of 2020 salary counting against the luxury tax, leaving them nearly $100MM south of the barrier. That’d leave ample room not only for a Rendon extension but for additional offseason maneuverings next winter.