As he prepares to test free agency, here are five potential landing spots for Anthony Rendon.
In line with the Washington Nationals rallying from a slow start to earn a Wild Card spot, third baseman Anthony Rendon pushed himself into the NL MVP conversation. He finished with the best offensive season of his career (.319/.412/.598 slash-line-1.010 OPS, 34 home runs, a Major League-leading 126 RBI and a National League-leading 44 doubles).
Rendon is also a solid defensive player at the hot corner, and he has now posted three straight seasons of over 6.0 fWAR (7.0 fWAR this year). So he’s set to hit the open market as the top position player available. But the Nationals aren’t ready to let him leave without having made an offer as he possibly plays his last game for the team on Tuesday night.
According to Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post, the Nationals offered Rendon a seven-year deal in the $210-$215 million range in September. The offer obviously was not inked, and it’s not expected to prevent Rendon from testing free agency. The last two offseasons have brought notably slow free agent markets, but top-end guys (see Bryce Harper and Manny Machado) have eventually gotten big contracts.
The Nationals structure big contracts with plenty of deferred money paid out over a lengthy time. But according to Svrluga, the offer to Rendon (assuming it’s still on the table) is structured a little differently.
The offer, made in early September, is not expected to keep Rendon from exploring his value on the free-agent market this offseason. But the structure of the deal is an indication that the Lerner family, which owns the Nationals, wants to keep a star whom the organization drafted in the first round in 2011 and developed into an all-star.
The eight-year, $260 million deal the Colorado Rockies gave Nolan Arenado raised the price of any deal Rendon might get. The Nationals’ offer, even accounting for seven years and $234 million in new money, comes in below that. Arenado is an elite defender at third base, but he has not yet delivered a season with 6.0 fWAR while Rendon has posted the aforementioned three straight campaigns above that level.
One way or another, Rendon will get a big contract this offseason. These five teams should he ready to pony up.
5. Chicago White Sox
Before accounting for any arbitration raises and the like, the White Sox currently have the lowest projected payroll in baseball for next year ($23.83 million, via Spotrac). A closer look shows eight million of that commitment is a club option on catcher Welington Castillo. As they push out of a rebuild phase and toward being a contender, the White Sox may be very active this offseason.
One big thing that may prevent the White Sox from being in on Rendon is budding star Yoan Moncada. Moncada played 130 games at third base this season, albeit at slightly below replacement level (-0.3 bWAR). But he moved to third after playing 149 games at second base in 2018 and could theoretically shift back to accommodate a notable addition. Rendon has also played some second base in his career, but not at a significant level since 2015 (59 games) as the Nationals made him their third baseman in Ryan Zimmerman‘s wake.
Money will be no object for Chicago if they want to make a big splash or two this offseason. Figuring out exactly how he’ll fit is strictly a background factor, so Rendon should be on the radar.