It’s rather uncommon to see significant, mid-season extensions. And it emerged recently that the Nationals have not made recent headway in their efforts to strike a deal with star third baseman Anthony Rendon. But that doesn’t mean Nationals president of baseball operations/GM Mike Rizzo is giving up hope of a deal that keeps the key veteran with the organization and off of the open market.
In an appearance on The Racing Presidents podcast, Rizzo made clear that the club is “not going to stop” trying to reach agreement until Rendon provides “a definitive decision” one way or another. There continues to be keen interest on both sides, Rizzo suggests, and he still believes “there’s a deal to be had.”
While the Nats’ top baseball decisionmaker understandably did not get into details, he did say that the team has “made very respectful, very market value offers.” Rendon’s true value in an extension scenario remains debatable. The recent deal between the Rockies and Nolan Arenado (seven years, $234MM) undoubtedly represents a key data point for both sides to consider. No doubt the Nats would also point Rendon’s agent, Scott Boras, to the much more modest deal he negotiated with the Red Sox for Xander Bogaerts. That these and other significant players elected to forego free agency is also a factor in projecting what Rendon might take down on the open market, where he’ll stand out as one of few premium players.
It’s obviously going to be harder now to convince Rendon not to test the open market. He has finally been tabbed for an All-Star game after an exceptional start to the year; no doubt his prominence will rise yet further as less attentive observers realize that the game’s quietest star is nearing free agency.
“It all comes down to what makes it work and what entices him to sign with the Nationals and not go through the free agent process,” said Rizzo. “And it’s gotta make sense for us also.”
Whether the sides can arrive at a number that suits both remains to be seen. But it doesn’t seem the Nationals have wavered in their desire to add another big salary to the books. The club has been on a tear of late, bouncing back from a messy start to climb back to within six games of the division pace. And the team’s core — Rendon aside — remains under contract for the foreseeable future.
By all indications, Rizzo is preparing to act as a buyer this summer. But if the club again ends up in a bit of a gray area, he won’t have as much flexibility to change course in August. Asked about how the new trade deadline rules will impact the market, Rizzo says he expects it will “keep more teams in the mix” and produce “more activity before the [July] 31st deadline.” Though he says it won’t much impact the Nats — “when we see opportunities we usually jump on them and take them” — Rizzo does note that the changed rules only “give you one bite at the apple.”