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Arenado's record deal could benefit Rendon

@JamalCollier
February 27, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Now that Nolan Arenado is off the market -- after signing a record-breaking eight-year, $260 million contract extension with the Rockies on Tuesday -- the top free-agent third baseman on the open market next offseason could be Anthony Rendon. That is, unless the Nationals get

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Now that Nolan Arenado is off the market -- after signing a record-breaking eight-year, $260 million contract extension with the Rockies on Tuesday -- the top free-agent third baseman on the open market next offseason could be Anthony Rendon.

That is, unless the Nationals get their wish. They have openly and repeatedly expressed interest in inking Rendon to a long-term deal, and the two sides have remained engaged on extension talks for the past year. Washington remains optimistic those talks will intensify again this spring.

Rendon has said he wants to be in D.C. long-term. The Nationals want to keep him. Now, the hard part is working out a deal that will please both parties.

“We love Anthony,” general manager Mike Rizzo said earlier this spring. “He’s a guy I scouted for a long time. We drafted, signed and developed him into an elite player. He’s a guy we look at in a Nationals uniform for a long time to come.”

Arenado’s extension could benefit Rendon in more ways than one.

Removing the top player at third base could open up the market for suitors targeting that position next season -- teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves or Cardinals, who could conceivably all seek help at the hot corner going forward. Josh Donaldson is also set to hit free agency next offseason, but Rendon is younger and hasn't been injured as much.

Arenado secured a record average annual value for a position player, a contract that is worth $32.5 million per season, surpassing Miguel Cabrera’s previous high of $31 million. Arenado's contract will almost certainly be used as framework come negotiation time with Rendon’s agent, Scott Boras. The Athletic reported in January that the initial asking price from Boras was a deal comparable to the seven-year, $163.5 million extension Jose Altuve and the Astros agreed to before the 2018 season, an average annual value of approximately $23.4 million.

While Rendon is one of the best and most underrated players in the game, he has yet to earn the same number of accolades as Arenado since they both made their debuts in 2013. Rendon, 28, is one year older and has never made the National League All-Star team or won an NL Gold Glove Award. Arenado is a four-time All-Star with the last six NL Gold Glove Awards to his name. In each of the past three seasons, Arenado has finished in the top five in the voting for the NL Most Valuable Player Award, ascending from fifth in 2016 to fourth in '17 to third last season. Rendon has one Top 5 MVP finish in '14, as well as a sixth-place finish in ’17 and 11th in ’18.

That’s not to say it’s a huge gap, but there’s a difference. Rendon has been traditionally overlooked, but he here is how he matches up statistically with Arenado since the start of 2016 (averages per year):

Rendon: .292/.374/.504, 23 home runs, .372 wOBA, 4.7 bWAR, 5.8 fWAR

Arenado: .300/.370/.572, 39 home runs, .391 wOBA, 6.5 bWAR, 5.5 fWAR

Both players were in their final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason. While Arenado agreed to a record-breaking one-year, $26 million deal in arbitration, Rendon signed a one-year, $18.8 million contract. That per-year salary is in the neighborhood of where the Nationals were aiming to stay with Rendon.

However, the Nationals are serious about locking up Rendon before he reaches free agency. A potential Rendon extension has long been thought to hinge on a resolution to Bryce Harper’s free agency, but sources within the Nats organization have pushed back on that idea, especially considering the team has no plans to sign Harper to a record-setting contract.

Extending Rendon was on the team’s to-do list this offseason, and it remains one of their top priorities this spring.

Boras does not typically agree to long-term deals before free agency, but he has in the past with the Nationals if the players prefer that. Stephen Strasburg signed a seven-year, $175 million extension in May 2016.

“What everyone has the misconception of is they think that we work for Scott,” Rendon said earlier this spring. “Like, no. That's not the way it works. I'm telling him how's it going and you can ask him. We've gotten some jibber-jabbers before, too. Like, I'm paying him. Nah, that don't fly with me.”

The fallout from Arenado’s extension will have ripple effects throughout baseball on teams and players extending well beyond Colorado. Now it remains to be seen how that fallout will impact Rendon.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.