Rizzo: Nats have 'head start' with Rendon, Stras

Familiarity with star free agents an 'added bonus,' GM says

November 13th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Even though the Nationals played until the last possible day of the baseball season, with the World Series extending all the way to the end of October and the celebration down Constitution Avenue in D.C. bleeding into the start of November, general manager Mike Rizzo and his staff don't think they need to make up any ground at the General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Throughout the playoff run, the Nationals were preparing for what will still be one of the most crucial offseasons in franchise history, one in which both third baseman and starter are among the top prizes on the free-agent market. Losing one or perhaps both of them would be a huge setback for the Nats. They would like to find a way to keep both of their star talents.

“We’re going to look at it like any other free-agent acquisition,” Rizzo told reporters in Scottsdale. “We’re going to try and negotiate a deal that makes sense for us and for them. With the added bonus that it takes away a big part of acquiring free agents, which is you 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.”

As of Tuesday evening, Rizzo had not yet met with agent Scott Boras, who represents both Rendon and Strasburg, but Rizzo said he planned to do so at some point before leaving Scottsdale this week.

Both Strasburg and Rendon were drafted by the Nationals in the first round in 2009 and '11, respectively, and they were both crucial members of a team's first World Series championship. But Rizzo did not provide much insight into how realistic he viewed keeping both players in a Nationals uniform in '20.

Washington remained under the competitive balance tax threshold last season, thus resetting their penalties after going over it the year prior, but Rizzo did not commit to being able to exceed that number again next year, or whether resetting the penalties had any impact on the payroll for next season.

“We'll see what transpires," Rizzo said. "And where we’re going to go with the payroll this year when we start putting together and constructing the roster."

Rendon is the market’s best position player, an elite Gold Glove-caliber defender at third base and as consistent a performer in all of baseball during the past few seasons, all leading to a breakout 2019 season that made him a finalist for the MVP Award. The Nationals have made attempts to extend Rendon, including reportedly offering him a deal worth approximately seven years, $210 million in September, although the amount of deferred money was unclear.

After being mired by injuries in 2018, Strasburg put together a full healthy ’19 and the Nats saw the benefits as he led the National League in innings and was named World Series MVP. Strasburg elected not to test free agency in '16 and signed a seven-year, $210 million extension that May. By using his opt-out clause, he turned down four years and $100 million remaining on that contract.

“We know each other pretty well,” Rizzo said. “They know our feelings toward them personally, professionally and vice versa.”