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This new club appears poised for run at Rendon

By Mark Feinsand | @Feinsand

December 11, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Two days, two mega-deals at the Winter Meetings. Now what?

One day after Stephen Strasburg signed a record-breaking, seven-year, $245 million deal with the Nationals, Gerrit Cole was poised to shatter that mark with a nine-year, $324 million contract to join the Yankees, according to sources.

You're up, Anthony Rendon.

The All-Star third baseman has drawn interest from a number of teams this offseason, namely the Dodgers, Rangers, Phillies and Nationals. Tuesday, the Angels became the latest club attached to Rendon, and now that they've finished a relatively distant second in the Cole sweepstakes, Rendon might represent their No. 1 fallback plan.

The Angels raised some eyebrows around the Manchester Grand Hyatt on Tuesday when they traded Zack Cozart and 2019 first-round pick Will Wilson to the Giants for cash considerations, shedding Cozart's $12.167 million salary from their payroll.

Shortly after the deal was announced, one industry insider posed a question to me in the hotel lobby that was seemingly on the minds of many: "What are the Angels up to?"

Freeing up $12 million from their payroll ought to help the Angels in their quest to land one of the top free agents, and two sources suggested Tuesday that Rendon, not Cole, was actually the club's top target. The Angels reportedly offered Cole just under $300 million, which means that they have more than enough money to land Rendon -- or possibly pivot to a two-player strategy and pursue both Josh Donaldson and either Madison Bumgarner or Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Rendon will likely cost somewhere in the $250 million range, but his contract is expected to be for fewer years at a lower average annual value than Cole's, which will pay him $36 million per year.

Adding a bat of Rendon's caliber to a lineup with Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Shohei Ohtani and Albert Pujols would give the Angels an offensive boost, and while the recent acquisition of Dylan Bundy helped fill a hole in the rotation, the Angels are still in need of major pitching help. Might the club be better off trying to sign Donaldson and Bumgarner or Ryu, adding both an impact bat and a frontline starter to the roster?

Should Rendon wind up with the Angels, it would intensify the interesting bidding war for Donaldson, the other premier free-agent third baseman. Donaldson has a robust market brewing, with the Rangers, Braves, Nationals, Dodgers and Angels -- yes, the Angels are also in the mix for the 2015 American League MVP -- among the teams pursuing the 34-year-old.

The Phillies had been in on both Rendon and Donaldson, but Tuesday's deal with Didi Gregorius essentially eliminated Philadelphia from those markets. The Dodgers have Justin Turner at third base for one more year, taking away any urgency for them to land one of the two free agents. Having also missed out on Cole, the Dodgers now appear intent on pursuing Bumgarner.

In Anaheim, meanwhile, Cozart's departure opens a hole at third base for the Angels, one that would be more than capably filled by Rendon or Donaldson. Texas also remains a serious contender for one of the two, though a source indicated Tuesday that the Rangers might prefer Donaldson. Ditto for the Nationals, who might have accepted that Rendon will be headed elsewhere, leaving Donaldson as a potential replacement.

The wild card on the third-base merry-go-round is Kris Bryant, who may or may not wind up being traded this offseason. The Braves -- who remain in the market to re-sign Donaldson but don't appear to be the favorites -- would be a logical suitor for Bryant should the Cubs ultimately move him.

Either way, Rendon's destination appears to be linked to Donaldson's, though some teams are said to prefer Donaldson based on contract length. Rendon is said to be seeking a seven-year deal, while Donaldson is expected to land a four-year pact.

Strasburg and Cole pushed the pitching market to the forefront through the first two days of the Winter Meetings. With both of those deals done, it's time for Rendon and Donaldson to change that.