Nationals, Rendon resume contract talks

Veteran expected to seek pact similar to Arenado's 8-year, $260M deal

April 17th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Contract negotiations between the Nationals and third baseman resumed on Tuesday afternoon, when a few high-ranking members of the organization held an impromptu meeting with Rendon prior to Washington's game against the Giants.

The meeting, which a source confirmed to and was first reported by MASN, featured Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and principal owner Mark Lerner discussing terms with Rendon, who is in the final season of his contract in D.C. The exact details of the meeting or where it might lead are unclear, but it is at least an encouraging sign. 

The Nationals approached Rendon with a contract offer during Spring Training, but the two sides had remained pretty far apart on the terms, per a source. However, they have both expressed a willingness to keep Rendon with the Nats long-term, and Rendon has expressed interest in staying. Both sides said they would be open to continue negotiations during the season.

“I’ll talk to Anthony about being here for as long as he wants to talk about it,” Rizzo said during the spring.

Rendon, 28, has aided his own cause in those negotiations with his fast start at the plate this season.

On Tuesday night, Rendon extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games and has started the season with a slash line of .397/.463/.845, already worth 1.2 Wins Above Replacement, as measured by Fangraphs, with a 225 wRC+. He has six homers and eight doubles in the first 15 games of the season, prompting Nationals fans to chant “Lock him up” when he comes to the plate. Rendon has elevated his already impressive resume to a level that ranks him among baseball’s best to start the season.

Initially, Rendon’s demands during the offseason were in line with the five-year, $151 million extension Jose Altuve signed with the Astros before the start of the 2018 season. But a source told that Rendon’s camp had been seeking a contract comparable to the eight-year, $260 million commitment Nolan Arenado received from the Rockies this spring.

The Nats face added pressure to keep Rendon after losing Bryce Harper to the Phillies. But Washington is no stranger to discussing an extension during the season: the team signed Strasburg to a long-term deal in May 2016.

The influx of extensions signed before the start of the regular season has left Rendon positioned to be perhaps the top prize of the 2019 free-agent class. Potential free agents Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts and Arenado all signed an extension this spring.

Rendon and the Nationals agreed to an $18.8 million contract for this season in his final year of arbitration, and Washington had preferred to keep his annual average salary near that level during extension talks, but it may take a more substantial raise to keep Rendon from testing free agency.

“I think there’s going to be a point where we think a fair and equitable deal is on the table, and they’ll come to the point where they think a deal is fair and equitable, and then you’ll get a deal done,” Rizzo said last month. “If not, I don’t think that the prospective free-agent pool next year will affect us either way.”