8:48pm: In addition to Rendon, the Dodgers have met with free-agent right-hander Stephen Strasburg, Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times reports. The Dodgers are currently set to lose Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill to free agency, and while they have internal options to replace them, adding Strasburg to the fold would represent a seismic upgrade to an already strong rotation mix.
Like Rendon, Strasburg can be reasonably expected to come with major luxury tax implications, as he’s viewed as a near-lock to secure a $30MM+ annual salary on the heels of perhaps his finest season. The former No. 1 overall pick led the National League with 209 innings and pitched to a 3.32 ERA with 10.8 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 51.1 percent ground-ball rate during the regular season, but it was the playoffs where he shined brightest.
In 36 1/3 postseason frames, Strasburg logged a 1.98 ERA with a ridiculous 47-to-4 K/BB ratio. He not only went toe-to-toe with eventual AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander in a must-win Game 6 showdown but delivered a masterful, near-complete game effort that forever cemented him in Nationals lore.
The Dodgers would be hard-pressed to sign Strasburg and remain south of the luxury tax — particularly since their previous pursuits of premier free agents have tended to feature shorter-term pacts at extremely high annual rates. Just what type of deal the Dodgers envision putting in front of Strasburg and agent Scott Boras isn’t clear, but the current iteration of the L.A. front office, under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, has yet to dole out a contract longer than five years.
10:59am: Free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon has been actively engaged with multiple teams in free agency. In addition to a sit-down with the Rangers, he has held a recent meeting with the Dodgers, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney.
It seems that other teams may also have had face-time with Rendon and agent Scott Boras, though their identities aren’t known. Intense early interest is creating the potential for a fairly quick and dramatic strike, with some unnamed execs around the game telling Olney they expect Rendon to be the first major free agent to sign — and that his new deal “could establish a record for highest annual value.”
That last note represents the latest hint that Rendon won’t be chasing the largest deal in overall value, spread over a huge term, as did former teammate Bryce Harper. Instead, he seems to be intrigued by the possibility of a shorter, higher-AAV pact that leaves him with greater flexibility. No shortage of teams would prefer that sort of arrangement as well — including, especially, the big-market Dodgers, who don’t mind plunking down premium salaries but prefer not to tie their hands too far into the future.
We had already learned of the connection between the Los Angeles outfit and Rendon, so it isn’t especially surprising to hear that they’ve taken the next step. But it’s still quite a notable news item for both team and player. On the Dodgers’ side, dedicated pursuit of Rendon would reshape their roster and payroll, with huge implications for the remainder of the winter and beyond. And for Rendon, the strong involvement of the L.A. behemoth not only opens a potentially promising opportunity, but provides ample leverage in talks with other trade partners.
So, is it down to the Dodgers and Rangers? Not so fast. We haven’t yet learned whether the Nationals will remain involved after making multiple efforts to keep Rendon from reaching free agency; that’s a realistic possibility that certainly hasn’t been ruled out. And there are quite a few other contenders that seem like plausible fits for Rendon, even at the premium price tag he seems destined to command.