Anthony Rendon has made it clear that he doesn’t want some crazy 13-year contract like Bryce Harper got last offseason. He’s 29 years old, and when asked earlier this year where he wants to be when he’s 36, he said: “Hopefully not playing baseball.” Whether Rendon meant that literally or not, it’s fair to surmise that the priority of his upcoming free-agent contract will be average annual value rather than number of years.
And that opens him to more bidders than Harper presumably had. Signing Harper required 13 years of commitment. You may be able to pay Rendon a massive amount, but only have to for five or six years or so. That could be more attractive. That could put more suitors on the board.
Thus, here’s our first installment of our Anthony Rendon Suitor Power Rankings, a semi-regular feature in which we break down the contenders for each of the major free agents by likelihood they’ll end up getting him. (We did Cole last week and will do Stephen Strasburg next week.) Some of this will be driven by rumors, which you can find all over MLB.com, but we’ll try to keep our eyes on the larger prize here: What’s likeliest, and makes the most sense, to end up happening? Where’s he gonna end up?
Hopefully we won’t have to keep updating these through February this offseason. Here are Rendon’s power ranking spots, as of today.
Rendon is keeping his options open, obviously, and he’d be a fool not to. But there’s something about the high of winning a World Series that makes you want to keep the band together. All of those years while the rest of us were all saying, “Not enough people are appreciating how great Anthony Rendon is,” Nats fans were appreciating him, and then some. He knows the place, he’s a defending champ, the team has never shied away from free-agent splashes, and they have an obvious spot for him. (His old spot!) The Nats are an obvious fit.
Justin Turner is obviously the third baseman right now, but he’s only under contract for one more year and has shown a willingness to move to first base if Rendon (or, say, Josh Donaldson) comes to town. That would push Max Muncy to second base and make Gavin Lux a utility guy, which actually makes a little bit of sense. More to the point: You’d only need to do all the moving around for one year until Turner’s contract expires. And there’s no way the Dodgers -- who, one reminds, took a step backward last year and might be more desperate for a World Series title than any team in baseball right now -- aren’t better in 2020 with Rendon on their team. And certainly for a few more years after that. They’ve been hesitant to give out massive long-term contracts in the past. So, maybe Rendon’s presumably smaller window gives both sides an opportunity.
As you may have heard during the World Series, Rendon is from Texas. (Though every Texan will be eager to tell you how different Houston and Dallas are from one another.) The Rangers are also opening a new ballpark next season, and having a star free agent to do so with wouldn't exactly be out of character for them. Plus, they have an obvious Adrian Beltre-sized hole at third base. If they want to swing big, Rendon, one suspects, will listen.
Zack Cozart isn’t really going to play third base for a team that has Mike Trout and is trying to win a World Series with him, is he? He’s expensive for the Angels next season ($12.67 million), but then, his contact will also expire after '20. In fact, some pricey Angels contracts are nearing their completion: Cozart after '20, Albert Pujols after '21, Justin Upton after '22. If the Angels can bite the bullet next season and in '21, there’s plenty of room for Rendon. Can you imagine Rendon and Trout in the same lineup? Of course, the Angels are more likely to go after Gerrit Cole considering their need for starting pitching, but if that doesn’t work, Rendon would be quite the consolation prize.
Let’s get the other band back together. Rendon was able to build a fantastic career mostly playing in Bryce Harper's shadow. Why not do it again? The Phillies have a hole at third base, and they have a fan base that’s not particularly pleased that their team has the fifth-longest playoff drought in baseball right now. Would Rendon do the Harper heel turn?
Fine, so they clearly don’t need another great hitter. But then again, they are the Yankees, and thus, they never should be counted out of anything. Just for fun, imagine this lineup:
2B D.J. LeMahieu
RF Aaron Judge
3B Rendon (!)
LF Giancarlo Stanton
SS Gleyber Torres
C Gary Sanchez
CF Aaron Hicks (after the first two months)
DH Miguel Andújar
1B Luke Voit
Egads. (And in this scenario, Gio Urshela moves into a utility role, or he or Andújar becomes trade bait.)
Other dimmer possibilities
Indians: Makes a lot of sense, actually, but do you see the Indians splurging right now?
Mets: It’d be a blast to watch Rendon go up against the Nats, but the Mets have all sorts of business to figure out before they start thinking about this.
Padres: You can see them wanting to make a crazy splash, but where would they put all of their left-side infielders?
White Sox: They went after Manny Machado last offseason, so you know it’s at least within the realms of reality.