SAN DIEGO -- The Rangers' chances of landing free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon may have received a huge boost Monday when the Nationals announced the signing of pitcher Stephen Strasburg.
That could leave the Rangers as the strong favorites to sign Rendon if Nationals owner Mark Lerner holds to previous statements that the club won’t be able to re-sign both Rendon and Strasburg.
“Rumors and perceptions throughout the year especially this time of year, you take it with a grain of salt,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “They are not real meaningful or predictive.”
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he is not ruling out the possibility of bringing back Rendon after signing Strasburg.
“You look at the history of the Nationals. ... This ownership group has never shied away from putting the resources together to field a championship-caliber club,” Rizzo said. “I don't see them in any way hindering us from going after the elite players in the game. I think that Anthony Rendon is, again, one of the players that is most near and dear to my heart. So he's a guy that we love. The ownership has always given us the resources to field a great team, and we're always trying to win, and we're going to continue to do so.”
Beyond the Rangers and the Nationals, the Dodgers and the Phillies are viewed as teams with the need and the financial resources to pursue Rendon. But there are mixed signals as to both teams' intentions. The Dodgers have not been big players in the free-agent market since Andrew Friedman was hired as president of baseball operations in 2015 and still have Justin Turner to play third base.
The Phillies have a need for a third baseman and are monitoring Rendon’s situation. But the Phillies, having signed free-agent pitcher Zack Wheeler, are leery about going over the luxury tax threshold and may prefer to use the remainder of their financial resources on either free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius or more starting pitching.
The Braves have a need for a third baseman but may not have the final resources to pursue Rendon. They likely will focus their efforts on re-signing Josh Donaldson. The Rangers also have interest in Donaldson if they are unable to land Rendon.
Rendon is from the Houston area and played collegiately at Rice University. A desire by Rendon to play in his home state -- with the added bonus of no state income tax -- could work in the Rangers' favor. The Rangers also have a solid relationship with Rendon’s agent Scott Boras, who has a favorable opinion of the Texas ownership group.
The sticking point could be length of contract. The Rangers would prefer not to go beyond five years, but Boras is likely looking for at least seven years or more for Rendon. One possibility is to do a five-year deal but with a higher annual value than a longer contract.
Boras negotiated a seven-year deal for Shin-Soo Choo with the Rangers at the 2013 Winter Meetings. He did five years and an option for Adrián Beltré in 2010.
Daniels has not ruled out trading for a third baseman and said he is having active conversations with other clubs. The wild card is Kris Bryant, who has a grievance pending with the Cubs over his service time. The Cubs are willing to trade Bryant to cut payroll but if he wins his grievance, he could become a free agent after the upcoming season. Otherwise he would have two years of arbitration left before free agency.
The Yankees have two third basemen in Miguel Andújar and Gio Urshela. Andújar was second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2018 but missed most of last season after undergoing right shoulder surgery. Urshela filled in by hitting .314 with 21 home runs, 74 RBIs and a .534 slugging percentage in 132 games.
The Rangers are getting eager to settle the situation one way or another.
“I would like to get it done sooner than later,” manager Chris Woodward said. “Obviously it is out of my hands but it’s important. It’s a need for us. We need that position filled, preferably with a right-handed bat. I’d like to get that done so we can focus on some other things we need to address.”
Daniels said he doesn’t see the Rangers' third-base situation resolved at the Winter Meetings.
“I wouldn’t bet on it, but I don’t know,” Daniels said. “I don’t have a feeling on the timing.”