When Bryce Harper left the Nationals to sign with the division-rival Phillies early this year, the consensus was that Washington would use the money it saved to extend Anthony Rendon, keeping the All-Star third baseman in town for the foreseeable future.
Talks between the Nationals and agent Scott Boras have not resulted in a new deal, and with Rendon’s free agency only weeks away, it seems like a lock that he’ll explore the market this offseason.
Rendon has had a dream season for any player, let alone one headed for the open market. Through 128 games, he owned an MLB-high .337 batting average, an eye-popping 1.047 OPS, 32 home runs and 114 RBIs, all of which are already career highs for the 29-year-old.
The Nationals were unwilling to give Harper what he wanted, but will the same hold true with Rendon? Boras certainly has a history of getting big deals from Washington, whose two highest-paid players (Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg) are both repped by the agent. All things (read: money) being equal, the perception is that Rendon would like to stay in D.C., but the Nats will have to do what they wouldn’t with Harper: be the top bidder.
There are a variety of reasons why Texas feels like the best fit if Rendon were to leave Washington. First, the Rangers will open a new ballpark in 2020, so adding a big-name star to the roster would help drive interest. Second, Texas has plenty of payroll flexibility, with only $87 million committed for 2020 and $40 million in '21. Third, Rendon is from Houston, which is heck of a lot closer to Dallas than any other market outside of his hometown. If the Rangers get aggressive, it’s easy to imagine Rendon returning to his home state.
Zack Cozart’s first two years in Anaheim have been nothing short of dreadful, with a pair of shoulder surgeries limiting him to just 96 games since the start of 2018. With one year and about $12.6 million remaining on his deal, the Angels could look to Rendon for stability at the hot corner -- and as a big bat to give Mike Trout some more help in the lineup. The Angels have about $116 million committed to their payroll next season, though that drops to $90 million for 2021 and $65 million for '22.
Todd Frazier will be a free agent, potentially opening a hole at third base. The Mets could easily plug All-Star Jeff McNeil or Jed Lowrie into that spot, however, which would eliminate the need for Rendon. Signing Rendon would accomplish two things: adding a major offensive piece to the lineup, while taking one away from the division-rival Nationals. This one feels unlikely, but there’s a fit if the Mets find themselves enamored with Rendon, who posted a 1.173 OPS in 19 games against them this season.
Rendon has hit .405 with a 1.220 OPS against the Phillies in 11 games this season, so Philadelphia knows the type of damage he can do. The hot corner will be an area of focus for the club this offseson, though with Alec Bohm (the team’s No. 1 prospect and No. 34 overall per MLB Pipeline) progressing through the system, adding a third baseman on a long-term deal might be a stretch. A free agent on a shorter deal, such as Josh Donaldson or Mike Moustakas, might be a more logical candidate for the Phillies.
Cardinals third basemen have a collective .717 OPS this season, ranking 13th in the NL, while their .240 average ranks 14th at the position. Matt Carpenter’s disappointing season (.716 OPS) is the primary reason for those numbers, and although he has two years and $39 million left on his deal, he’s versatile enough to remain a valuable commodity even if Rendon came to St. Louis (assuming the club didn’t trade Carpenter). The biggest obstacle could be the Cardinals’ payroll, as St. Louis has $147 million in commitments next season and $97 million in 2021.