Just when baseball fans in Washington are ready to move on from Bryce Harper’s decision to join a division rival in free agency, another star player on the Nationals may be following him out the door.
Anthony Rendon, fresh off his first All-Star Game appearance and in the middle of a career-season, isn’t having too much luck getting a contract extension to stay with the only franchise he’s known.
It makes sense, then, that all the key players here are the same ones involved in the failed attempt to keep Harper from leaving in free agency last winter. The Lerner Family is still pulling all the strings in the Nationals’ front office while agent Scott Boras is handling the negotiations for Rendon.
Neither side appears to have made much progress, and speaking on local radio in D.C. at the trade deadline, it doesn’t appear that Rendon is trying to avoid being one of the most sought-after players on the open market.
“If you give me this opportunity to go car shopping from multiple lots instead of staying in one lot, what would you do?” Rendon said on 106.7 The Fan. “I mean, the opportunity has been there for five, six years now. I’m still open to it, still all ears, but the closer we get to that opportunity, it makes more sense as a player to think about my family and all these other variables that come into play. Why not look forward to it?”
On the heels of that interview, the Washington Post reports that both the Lerners and Boras have been in touch, but it hasn’t led to too much progress.
The Nationals flew to Phoenix for the start of a 10-game road swing, and Boras flew there, too. Boras and Rendon met during the weekend series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to a person with knowledge of the check-in, to review the options moving forward.
Boras has been in frequent contact with Ted Lerner, the Nationals’ founding principal owner, in the past month following their four-hour meeting at Nationals Park on July 6. That’s a common occurrence when the Nationals are working with Boras clients, because Boras and Lerner, 93, have struck a few big deals in the past decade.
Rendon says there is, naturally, a contract Washington could offer to keep him off the open market. But multiple people involved believe that indications are reality, and Rendon will become a free agent once the season is through.
Just because Rendon is a Boras client doesn’t mean the Nationals are out of the race to sign the third baseman. Boras reps Stephen Strasburg, who signed an extension in D.C. without hitting free agency in 2016, and Max Scherzer, for whom Boras got a deal done with Washington in 2015.
But the way things went with Harper last season should make all sides leery.
The free agent class for this year isn’t exactly stacked — Rendon and pitcher Gerrit Cole are far and away the top players slated to hit the market —and there are plenty of teams in need of an All-Star caliber third baseman. The Nationals don’t need to look any further than the team that won the Harper Sweepstakes last season with an owner willing to spend “stupid money.” That the Phillies are struggling at a position where Rendon excels is more than enough to worry Nats fans.
Rendon is 29 years old, slashing .315/.400/.608 and has already matched his career high for home runs in a season with 25. He’s a must-have for any team that’s ready to win now.
Maybe that’s the Nationals. Don’t be shocked if it’s not.
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