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Do Nats already have a Rendon replacement?

November 19, 2019

After a seven-season tenure with the Nationals that included a 2014 Silver Slugger Award, a 2019 All-Star nod and three top-10 National League MVP finishes (2014, '17 and '19), Anthony Rendon is on the open market for the first time in his career. He is tied to Draft-pick compensation if

After a seven-season tenure with the Nationals that included a 2014 Silver Slugger Award, a 2019 All-Star nod and three top-10 National League MVP finishes (2014, '17 and '19), Anthony Rendon is on the open market for the first time in his career. He is tied to Draft-pick compensation if he signs with a new team after being one of 10 players to receive the $17.8 million qualifying offer (he declined the qualifying offer).

Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the 29-year-old third baseman.

Do Nats already have a Rendon replacement?

Nov. 19: The Nationals are still certainly in play to re-sign Rendon, but could the presence of top prospect Carter Kieboom make it more likely the Nationals part ways with their superstar third baseman?

Kieboom, a natural shortstop, also spent time at second and third base with Triple-A Fresno this past season. With 26-year-old shortstop Trea Turner under contract for three more seasons and Kieboom already getting his first taste of the Majors in 2019, the Nationals will likely need to find another spot to slot Kieboom into the lineup. While Kieboom could compete for the starting job at second in '20, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post suggests that the 22-year-old could step into the full-time role at the hot corner if Rendon indeed signs elsewhere.

“Here’s the thing with Carter, and this won’t change: If he weren’t on a team with Trea Turner, who’s a premier shortstop at 26, that’s the position Carter would play,” general manager Mike Rizzo said, according to the Post. “But it turns out that he’s on a team with Trea, and we expect Trea to be with us for a long, long time. So we’ll just have to see where Carter fits.”

Rendon has already been tied to the Rangers (MLB.com's Richard Justice lists Texas as a team ready to make a leap in 2020, with the club expected to make significant additions) and Dodgers, as well as a possible return to the Nationals. MLB.com's Mark Feinsand has previously mentioned the Angels, Phillies and Braves as other potential suitors, while plenty of other teams figure to enter the discussion at some point.

Will Rendon top Arenado's $260 million contract?

Nov. 19: When Nolan Arenado re-signed with the Rockies for $260 million over eight years in February, he might have set the ceiling for what Rendon can expect to get this offseason. The two players have been incredibly similar, stats-wise.

Arenado's 162-game averages, 2017-19: 41 HR, 124 RBIs, 131 OPS+, 6.3 bWAR
Rendon's 162-game averages, 2017-19: 32 HR, 121 RBIs, 143 OPS+, 6.2 bWAR

Monday on MLB Network, the "Hot Stove" crew debated whether Rendon will top Arenado's deal.

Harold Reynolds expects Rendon to fall short, contending that Colorado was willing to pay extra for Arenado to make sure he didn't reach free agency. Rendon is also a year older. Reynolds predicts he'll ultimately sign for $230 million.

However, Joel Sherman points out that Arenado wasn't on the open market, and thus didn't have multiple teams bidding on him to drive up the price. The biggest question, in Sherman's view, is whether Rendon actually wants an eight-year deal, or if he'll seek a shorter contract with a higher average annual value.

Speculation about Rendon's contract-length preference has been prevalent since The Athletic (subscription required) published a story in October in which the 29-year-old was asked what he would be doing at 36 years old.

“Hopefully, not playing baseball,” Rendon quipped. “Probably sitting on the couch hanging out with my kids."

It's unclear if that comment was made mostly in jest, or if Rendon truly hopes to be retired by that point. The answer could determine whether Rendon will land a larger deal than Arenado.

Should Dodgers pursue Cole over Rendon?

Nov. 19: MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported last week that Rendon is on the Dodgers' radar, but fellow MLB Network insider Joel Sherman thinks Los Angeles would be better off going after one of the other top free agents on the market.

"The first thing I would do is, I would seriously pursue Gerrit Cole," Sherman said Monday on MLB Network's "Hot Stove" program as he played the role of the Dodgers' general manager. "I want to get to the point where Cole and Walker Buehler are my No. 1 and 2 starters, and I begin to de-emphasize Clayton Kershaw, who's still a very good Major League starter. But it gets to the postseason every year and they're somehow beholden to Clayton Kershaw, who even himself, after [National League Division Series] Game 5 when they were eliminated against Washington, talked about his history in the postseason, which is, at best, mixed."

Kershaw is one of the greatest regular-season pitchers in MLB history, recording a lifetime 2.44 ERA and winning three NL Cy Young Awards as well as the 2014 NL MVP Award. He has remained effective over the past few years even as his velocity has begun to slip. Kershaw, though, owns a career 4.43 ERA over 32 playoff appearances (25 starts), and his postseason struggles are perhaps the biggest reason why the Dodgers haven't been able to capture a World Series title despite winning seven consecutive NL West crowns and a pair of NL pennants, as Sherman noted.

Justin Turner has said he is willing to change positions if the team acquires another third baseman, but with the veteran signed for one more season, the Dodgers' arguably have a greater need for Cole than Rendon.

Rendon, though, might fit better within the front office's philosophy. The club has avoided giving out long-term contracts to free agents during president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman's tenure. Between Cole and Rendon, the latter is thought to be more open to a shorter-term contract with a higher average annual value like the deal Los Angeles reportedly offered Bryce Harper (four years, $180 million) before he joined the Phillies for $330 million over 13 years.

Rendon on Dodgers' radar, Turner willing to move off 3B

Nov. 14: The Dodgers, who fell short of winning the World Series for a 31st consecutive year when they were stunned by the Nationals in the National League Division Series, have one of the players who helped beat them in that series on their radar this offseason. According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, Los Angeles has interest in free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon, and current third baseman Justin Turner would be willing to move to another position if necessary.

Rendon, 29, had the best season of his career in 2019, slashing .319/.412/.598 with a league-best 44 doubles and an MLB-best 126 RBIs to go along with a career-high 34 homers and a third-place finish in NL MVP voting. He also hit .276 with three doubles and two homers in the postseason to help Washington win the first World Series title in franchise history.

Nats seek 'quick resolutions' on Rendon, Strasburg

Nov. 14: Agent Scott Boras has never been one to rush the free-agent process for his top clients. That appears to be the case this year when it comes to Gerrit Cole, according to SNY's Andy Martino, who cited industry sources indicating Boras has indicated to interested teams that Cole is unlikely to sign before January.

But there might be faster movement in the markets for Rendon and Stephen Strasburg, as Martino has heard, which could bode well for the Nationals.

It's no secret that Washington wants to re-sign the duo, and general manager Mike Rizzo said Tuesday that he thinks the Nats' familiarity with both players gives the team a "head start" over other clubs. Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reported that Rizzo met with Boras for roughly an hour on Tuesday and discussed both Strasburg and Rendon.

Meanwhile, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported the club would like "quick resolutions" with the pair, so there's more time to handle contingency plans, if needed.

Rizzo: Nats have 'head start' on Rendon

Nov. 12: Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo thinks his club is in pole position to retain its star free agents, Rendon and Stephen Strasburg.

"We’re going to try and negotiate a deal that makes sense for us and for them," Rizzo said Tuesday at the GM Meetings. "With the added bonus that it takes away a big part of [the process of] acquiring free agents -- which is, you'd better make sure you know the free agent when you acquire them. We already have that covered. And that gives us a head start on those two particular free agents."

Jesse Doughery of the Washington Post reports that Rizzo met with Rendon and Strasburg's agent, Scott Boras, for about an hour Tuesday. Rizzo said of Rendon and Strasburg, "We know each other pretty well. They know our feelings toward them personally, professionally, and vice versa."

Teams not willing to wait on Rendon will have other options

Nov. 12: The free agent market features two strong third basemen in Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rendon, who is perceived to be the best position player available in free agency. According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, though, one executive noted that teams might not want to wait on Rendon, who is represented by Scott Boras -- an agent who has known to be deliberate with free agent contracts -- and may instead want to make a decision sooner with a player like Donaldson.

“If a team is worried that waiting for Rendon could mean they get neither of them, they could make a move for Donaldson,” the executive said.

It's worth noting that Donaldson signed his one-year deal with the Braves for 2019 on Nov. 26 last year, one of the first Major League free agents to ink a deal last winter. It's unknown if he will sign as quickly this offseason.

Why Rendon may have trouble topping Arenado's $260 million contract

Nov. 10: With the GM Meetings happening this week in Scottsdale, Ariz., it’s fair to expect that we’ll start to hear more about how the market will shape up this winter. Third base is one of the strongest areas in this year’s market, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand writes, and Rendon could be the domino to set the rest of it in motion.

Rendon is considered by many to be the top position player available in this year’s free agent class, and he should garner a contract north of $200 million. Feinsand posits that the Nationals, Rangers, Phillies, Braves and Angels could all be in play for Rendon.

That said, Rendon's leverage could be affected by the presence of fellow free agents Josh Donaldson and Mike Moustakas. With those viable alternatives available, Rendon may have trouble matching the seven-year, $260 million deal Nolan Arenado signed with the Rockies last offseason.

Here's how Rendon could end up in Los Angeles

Nov. 10: The Dodgers have finished in first place in the National League West in each of the past seven seasons, but the club still hasn't won a World Series title since 1988, and after a disappointing NL Division Series loss to the Nationals in 2019, Los Angeles could be more aggressive in pursuing the top free agents on the market this offseason.

According to Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers' needs include a frontline starter and a right-handed power bat.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon is a potential target, and Castillo writes that Los Angeles "would pounce on the opportunity to sign him to a shorter deal -- think four or five years -- if available."

Nolan Arenado's seven-year, $260 million contract with the Rockies was thought to be the model for Rendon's next deal. However, speculation about Rendon's willingness to accept a shorter contract with a record-breaking average annual value increased after he commented on his future in an article for The Athletic (subscription required) last month.

When discussing teammate Howie Kendrick, the 29-year-old Rendon was asked what he'd be doing at 36, Kendrick's current age.

“Hopefully, not playing baseball,” Rendon said. “Probably sitting on the couch hanging out with my kids."

While that comment was made in jest, there may have been some truth to it. If so, it would increase his chances of landing with the Dodgers.

Los Angeles has third baseman Justin Turner signed for one more season at $20 million, but Turner has said he would be open to moving positions.

Will Rendon head home to Texas?

Nov. 9: Rendon thrived under the spotlight in October following his best regular season at the plate, priming him for a substantial payday in free agency. Will it come in his home state of Texas? MLB.com's Mark Feinsand sees a match in Arlington.

"Rendon is an obvious fit," Feinsand writes. "Six players started at third base for Texas [in 2019], while its collective .699 OPS ranked 26th in the Majors at the position. Rendon is also a Texas native (he’s from Houston) ..."

Will the Rangers open a new ballpark in 2020 along with a new star third baseman to provide consistency at the position for the first time since the retirement of Adrián Beltré?

Collier: Budget shouldn't preclude Nats from chasing Rendon, Strasburg

Nov. 8: While it remains to be seen whether the Nationals can re-sign Rendon and Stephen Strasburg, one potential roadblock might be off the table.

MLB.com’s Jamal Collier writes in his Friday inbox that Washington’s budget “should not be an issue” in wooing their stars back to D.C., even though both Rendon and Strasburg will be looking for significant raises from their previous contracts with the Nats. The club has repeatedly stated its intention to bring back both pieces from the 2019 World Series championship roster, and Collier notes the actions it has taken to express that. Washington reportedly offered Rendon an extension for roughly seven years and $210 million to $215 million toward the end of the regular season, and committed to Strasburg when it signed him to a seven-year deal back in 2016 -- when his health was still a major question mark -- before the pitcher opted out of that deal after this year’s World Series.

Collier predicts that the Nats will “almost certainly bring one of their stars back,” adding that he would be surprised if Strasburg were pitching in another uniform in 2020.

Would Padres try to acquire both Rendon and Strasburg?

Nov. 7: Rendon and Stephen Strasburg are two free agents from the Nationals who will be highly sought after this offseason, with Rendon coming off a career year at the plate and Strasburg having just been named World Series MVP after helping Washington win the first World Series championship in franchise history. But might one team, in particular, try to acquire them both?

According to Sports Illustrated's Connor Grossman, the answer to that question is yes. As part of a staff-wide bold predictions article, Grossman laid out the case that the Padres may very well try to add both stars to complement the pieces already in place, to make San Diego a contender much sooner than anyone expected.

"Strasburg has long ties to the San Diego area and the fit is easier to see, while Rendon would be joining an infield already stocked with Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.," Grossman writes. "That reconfiguring would be tricky to sort out, but Padres chairman Ron Fowler has made no secrets about his demand to win next year. Hello, #MysteryTeam2K20"

Rendon less likely to return to Nats than Strasburg?

Nov. 6: With two of their stars on the free-agent market after helping them win the World Series, the Nationals might have a big decision to make between World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon. According to ESPN's David Schoenfield, odds are that pitching will rule the day with Washington's front office.

"The Nats have always tried to build around starting pitching, and given Strasburg's postseason run, if they have to choose between one, I think they lean to Strasburg," Schoenfield writes.

Prior to another tremendous postseason performance, Strasburg put together a strong bounce-back season after a career-high 3.74 ERA in 2018 -- he posted a 3.32 ERA over an NL-best 209 innings during the regular season.

Rendon, meanwhile, enjoyed the best offensive season of his career, slashing .319/.412/.598 with an NL-leading 44 doubles and a Major League-leading 126 RBIs to go along with a career-high 34 homers.

Rendon ranks No. 2 on MLBTR's list; Nats return possible?

Nov. 5: MLB Trade Rumors published its 14th annual Top 50 Free Agents list on Tuesday, and the site predicts a Washington reunion for Rendon.

MLBTR writer Tim Dierkes slots Rendon as the second-best free agent behind Gerrit Cole, and he predicts that the star third baseman will return to Washington on a seven-year, $235 million contract. Rendon just helped the Nationals win their first World Series championship, and Washington has already put a seven-year contract on the table when it reportedly offered Rendon a contract somewhere between $210 million and $215 million in September. That length would have Rendon signed through his age-36 season, while Dierkes points out that fellow third basemen Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado are only signed through their age-34 and -35 seasons, respectively.

Arenado's $234 million extension with the Rockies would figure to be the target for Rendon, though ESPN's Buster Olney reported in mid-October (subscription required) that Rendon might be interested in a shorter-term contract with a higher average annual value (AAV). That might bring the Dodgers, who tried a similar tact with Bryce Harper last year, into the fold, but Dierkes still pegs the Nationals as the favorite. In fact, he predicts that Washington will retain both Rendon and ace Stephen Strasburg, who opted out of his contract Saturday.

What's an MVP-level bat worth?

Nov. 4: All-Star. World Series champion. And now MVP finalist.

As Rendon's free agency begins, there's yet another reminder of just how good he is. The BBWAA Awards finalists were announced Monday, and it's no surprise that Rendon is one of the three finalists for NL MVP, along with the Brewers' Christian Yelich and the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger.

No matter where Rendon places among the three, it will be his highest career MVP voting finish. He finished fifth in 2014, sixth in '17 and 11th last season.

The teams that pursue Rendon this offseason aren't just looking at a star-caliber player. They're looking at an MVP-caliber player. So just how much is one of those worth? Fans are already taking their guesses ...

Why Donaldson may be more likely target for Rangers than Rendon

Nov. 4: Given Rendon's ties to Texas and the Rangers' need for a third baseman, the two sides seem like a logical fit. However, the club may be more likely to pursue one of the other options on the market.

According to MLB.com's TR Sullivan, the Rangers are not interested in giving out a free-agent deal longer than five years. Rendon could command a contract similar to the seven-year, $260 million deal Nolan Arenado signed with the Rockies last offseason.

For that reason, the Rangers view Josh Donaldson as a more attractive option, Sullivan writes, even though he is more than four years older than Rendon. Donaldson earned $23 million on a one-year contract with the Braves in 2019. After a strong bounceback season, the 2015 American League MVP Award winner could command up to four years on the open market. Atlanta extended a one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer to Donaldson on Monday and is expected to make a push to re-sign him once he inevitably rejects the QO.

Will Nats need to choose between Rendon and Strasburg?

Nov. 3: Last offseason, when Stephen Strasburg was coming off four straight years with fewer than 30 starts and had recently turned 30, there seemed to be virtually no chance that he would opt out of his contract and leave $100 million on the table following the 2019 campaign.

Twelve months later, Strasburg is indeed opting out (per a source), and he could be on track to easily surpass $100 million with his new contract.

In fact, ESPN's Jeff Passan calls Strasburg's previous $175 million deal -- a seven-year pact that began in 2017 -- the "floor" for what he could get on the open market.

If that's the case, it could be tough for Washington to re-sign him. It's possible the team will need to choose between Strasburg and Rendon, who is also a free agent and could earn upwards of $270 million. The Nats have Max Scherzer signed for two more years and Patrick Corbin for five more in their rotation, so Rendon might be the priority. According to Heyman, some in the Nats' organization thought Bryce Harper was replaceable, but don't feel the same way about Rendon. Harper, of course, left the Nationals and joined the Phillies on a 13-year, $330 million deal last March.

The Nationals, though, aren't ruling out bringing back Strasburg. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman tweets that some Nationals people "still like their chances" to keep him in D.C., despite rumblings that he will seriously consider a team in Southern California, where he was born and attended college.

Rendon's camp reportedly made counter offers to Nats

Nov. 3: While Rendon will be free to sign with any team this offseason, he doesn't seem to be itching to get out of Washington D.C.

According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, the Nationals' contract offers to Rendon over the past two years weren't met with a flat-out rejection. Rather, Rendon's agent, Scott Boras, extended multiple counter offers to the Nats, which suggests a motivation on Rendon's part to finish his career with the only team he's ever known.

Of course, it's unknown how far apart the two sides were. The Washington Post reported in late September that Rendon was offered a seven-year contract between $210 million and $215 million at some point, but there haven't been any specifics on what type of deal Rendon is seeking. The assumption is that Nolan Arenado's seven-year, $260 million pact with the Rockies will be used as a starting point in negotiations.

At parade, Nats players, fans champion Rendon's return

Nov. 2: Saturday was a day for Washington D.C. to celebrate the Nationals' amazing run to a World Series championship, as the team paraded through the nation's capital after bringing home the city's first title since 1924. But with Anthony Rendon entering free agency and World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg possibly joining him, it's easy to see why players and fans alike might have spent some time looking ahead.

When Trea Turner stepped to the podium, Adam Eaton told him he could say anything he wanted. The shortstop was quick to share his wish for Rendon's return.

"Can we bring back Anthony Rendon?" Turner said, eliciting cheers from the crowd and bringing a wide smile to Rendon's face.

"I'll second that notion. All in favor?" Eaton asked the fans, inciting more cheers.

On the heels of an MVP-caliber regular season, Rendon played a major role in the Nationals' postseason success, hitting .328 with three homers, seven doubles, 15 RBIs and a 1.003 OPS over 17 playoff games.

After seeing Bryce Harper join the National League East-rival Phillies on a 13-year, $330 million deal last offseason, the Nats are expected to make a serious push to re-sign the 29-year-old Rendon, though Washington's first reported offer of a seven-year contract for $210 million to $215 million could be well short of what he ends up getting on the open market.

Meanwhile, Strasburg's opt-out deadline came and went Saturday without news on his decision.

Who will get the top contract this offseason: Cole or Rendon?

Nov. 2: Much like last offseason, when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado battled for free-agent supremacy, there's no consensus on the top player available this year. On one side, there's Cole. On the other, there's third baseman Anthony Rendon.

Both players are 29 years old and have a strong case for the No. 1 spot. Position players arguably are a safer commodity than pitchers, but aces of Cole's caliber might be more difficult to come by. Cole had a 2.50 ERA with 326 strikeouts in 212 1/3 innings this past season, and he went on to record a 1.72 ERA with 47 K's in 36 2/3 innings during the postseason. Rendon, meanwhile, hit .319/.412/.598 with 34 homers and 126 RBIs over 146 games in the regular season and .328/.413/.590 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 17 playoff games, helping the Nats top Cole's Astros in the World Series. In the past two years, Cole produced 13.4 FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement. Rendon was worth 13.2 in that same span.

In MLB.com reporter Anthony Castrovince's view, Cole is No. 1, and Rendon No. 2, on the list of the top 20 free agents. However, that doesn't necessarily mean Cole will get a larger contract. The right-hander is expected to surpass David Price's record $217 million deal for the largest ever signed by a pitcher. He may even eclipse $250 million. Rendon, though, reportedly already had a $210 to $215 million offer in hand from the Nationals, and he turned it down. Rendon's agent, Scott Boras, who also represents Cole, could look to third baseman Nolan Arenado's eight-year, $268 million pact with the Rockies as a starting point for Rendon's new contract, considering Rendon compares favorably to the Colorado slugger.

Reasons why Rendon might age well

Nov. 1: Rendon unquestionably is the top position player on the free-agent market, and perhaps the best free agent overall. But suitors aren't only interested in what Rendon already has accomplished, they're interested in what's to come.

On Thursday, MLB.com's Mike Petriello looked at third basemen who performed similarly to Rendon at the same age in an attempt to forecast his future production. Petriello went back to 1969, the first year of divisional play, and looked for players who fulfilled the following requirements over the final three years of their 20s:

• Offense between 40 and 60 points above average in a three-year span, in terms of wRC+
• At least 1,000 plate appearances between age 27 and 29
• At least 50% of playing time coming as a third baseman
• Defense with a positive WAR value

Aside from Rendon, there are only nine players to meet these qualifications over the past 50 years, including five Hall of Famers: Mike Schmidt, Wade Boggs, Tony Pérez, George Brett and Edgar Martinez.

Petriello then looked at how those nine players went on to perform in subsequent seasons, through age-34, and the results bode well for Rendon.

"Over the next five years, barring serious injury, there's very little precedent for a third baseman as productive as Rendon to fail to continue to produce," Petriello writes. More >

Rendon heads into free agency after big postseason

Oct 30: Anthony Rendon had a big regular season and topped it all off with a great postseason to help the Nationals win their first World Series title. Now, he hits free agency.

Rendon launched a solo home run to slice the Astros' 2-0 lead in half as the Nats rallied in the seventh inning of Game 7, after belting a Game 6 homer to extend Washington’s lead from 3-2 to 5-2 in the seventh inning. Overall, the third baseman hit .276 (8-for-29) in the series with three doubles to go along with the two homers. He also shined defensively at the hot corner.

For the postseason overall, Rendon hit .328 (20-for-61) with seven doubles, three home runs and 11 walks. He hit a clutch home run off Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw in Game 5 of the National League Division Series before Juan Soto followed with a game-tying shot, and Howie Kendrick’s ninth-inning grand slam put Washington ahead for good.

Rendon’s strong postseason showing, particularly on the biggest of stages in the Fall Classic, comes on the heels of the best offensive campaign of his career -- he hit .319/.412/.598 with a league-best 44 doubles and 126 RBIs during the regular season. He also hit a career-high 34 home runs.

Is adding big-name third baseman part of Phillies' offseason plans?

Oct. 30: On Tuesday, Matt Gelb reported in an article for The Athletic (subscription required) that the Phillies were proceeding with two sets of offseason plans -- one with the assumption of signing Gerrit Cole and one without.

While the rotation is Philadelphia's most pressing area of need, the club also could use an upgrade at third base, so it's fair to wonder if the team's non-Cole plans include Rendon.

The Phillies were a suitor for the top two free agents on the market last offseason, ultimately signing Bryce Harper for $330 million over 13 years, while Manny Machado went to the Padres on a 10-year, $300 million deal. Could history repeat itself, with Philadelphia acquiring another Nats All-Star?

Phillies third basemen have posted a collective 92 wRC+ over the past two seasons, ranking 21st in the Majors. Scott Kingery had a solid sophomore campaign in 2019 (101 wRC+, 2.7 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement), but the Phils may prefer to keep him in a utility role. Maikel Franco, meanwhile, is a non-tender candidate.

Cole and Rendon are both represented by agent Scott Boras, who has shown a willingness to wait out the market to get his clients the best contracts. As Gelb points out, navigating the offseason could be more difficult for the Phillies than it was a year ago, when they were able to address other positions while keeping right field and third base open as they simultaneously courted Harper and Machado. If Cole signs late, like Harper and Machado did, many of the top alternative starting pitcher options could be off the market, leaving Philadelphia in a vulnerable situation.

It might be less risky for the club to sign two veteran starters and then target Rendon as the centerpiece of its offseason. But if Cole is the Phillies' preferred choice among the top two free agents, the team could address its third-base situation by signing Josh Donaldson or Mike Moustakas earlier in the offseason and then making an all-out push for the ace righty.

Angels more likely to target Cole than Rendon

Oct. 21: Right-hander Gerrit Cole and Rendon will be the top two players on the free-agent market this offseason, and the Angels' two biggest holes arguably lie in the rotation and at the hot corner.

As the team looks to build a winner around superstar Mike Trout in manager Joe Maddon's first year at the helm, it could conceivably target both Cole and Rendon.

However, MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger doesn't expect the Angels to make a serious run at the latter, writing that they "need pitching too much to spend their resources on a player like Rendon."

A whopping 14 pitchers made at least five starts for the Angels last season, three more than any other team, and the club had the American League's worst rotation ERA (5.64). Shohei Ohtani will be back as a two-way player next season, but his innings will likely be monitored after Tommy John surgery. Beyond Ohtani, the Angels have Andrew Heaney and a host of question marks.

The Angels are considered one of the favorites to land Cole, a Southern California native who attended UCLA, and Bollinger thinks the team could pursue Stephen Strasburg, Rendon's teammate with the Nationals and another SoCal native, if the righty opts out of the four years and $100 million remaining on his deal to test the open market.