The underrating of Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon has finally subsided a bit in 2019. The 29-year-old, owner of a 29.1 fWAR since his 2013 debut, finally made his first All-Star Game this season. All he had to do was hit .311/.398/.630 (158 wRC+) with 19 home runs in 299 plate appearances to earn a spot on this year’s National League roster.
Lack of All-Star nods aside, teams recognize the value of Rendon, who’s not far from reeling in a nine-figure contract. Aside from Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole, Rendon is hands down the majors’ preeminent player scheduled to reach the open market this winter. The Nationals would like to prevent Rendon from ever shopping his services around the game, of course, but it’s up in the air whether they’ll be able to stop the Scott Boras client. While both sides have expressed interest in continuing their partnership past this season, no agreement has materialized yet.
Now, four months before free agency, “there has been little to no progress” toward a long-term contract, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reports. Asked about negotiations, Rendon told Dougherty they’re “out of my hands,” though he did suggest he’s still amenable to staying in D.C.
Back when the Nationals and Boras were discussing a Rendon deal a few months ago, the player’s camp used Astros second baseman Jose Altuve’s pact as a starting point, according to Dougherty. Altuve signed a a five-year, $151MM extension going into 2018, when he was a soon-to-be 28-year-old coming off an AL MVP- and World Series-winning season. He was also a five-time All-Star then. The Nationals didn’t place a similar value on the less decorated Rendon, per Dougherty. Unsurprisingly, as Dougherty notes, the seven-year, $234MM guarantee the Rockies gave their own standout third baseman, Nolan Arenado, entering this season didn’t do anything to bridge the gap between the Nationals and Rendon. However, should the two sides resume talks in earnest, Dougherty suggests Rendon’s side would likely push for an Arenado-esque deal.
Barring a massive change in course over the next few months, Rendon seems almost certain to become a free agent after the season. In the process, he’d likely follow in Bryce Harper’s footsteps as the second Nats superstar to leave in as many winters. The Nationals, even though they were treading water last summer, decided against parting with Harper before either of the summer trade deadlines. They ended up losing the bidding for Harper to the Phillies in the offseason and only getting a draft pick after the fourth round as compensation for the qualifying offer recipient.
As was the case a summer ago, the Nationals are hanging around the .500 mark as they decide how to proceeded with a key free agent. The club has surged since a nightmarish start, putting it at 42-41 and just a game and a half out of a playoff spot. Assuming the Nationals stay on this path, it’s hard to envision them selling Rendon for a package of young talent this summer. If Rendon does leave Washington in the coming months, it seems likely to occur in free agency, when the team could land better compensation for the eventual QO recipient’s departure than it did Harper’s. Should the Nationals stay under the $206MM luxury tax threshold through this season – which they’ve done by a couple million dollars to this point – they’ll get a pick after Competitive Balance Round B for Rendon’s exit.