The 2020 free agent class is strong. In regards to the top available player, depending on who you ask, you’ll likely hear one of three responses: Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg (more on him soon), or Anthony Rendon.
Before talking about the player, let’s discuss the guy. In a profession filled with egos and loud personalities, Rendon is as even-keeled as they come and a fan favorite for those who can see through lesser “larger than life” stars. He’s the kind of player teammates gravitate towards, and his recent production backs up their opinions of him.
Rendon by far leads this position player class. He likely would have if 2019 never happened, but he firmly cemented himself ahead of the pack by hitting for career highs in batting average (.319), home runs (34), doubles (44, tying his all-time best from 2018), runs scored (117), and RBIs (126, which led the MLB). He also boasted his top single-season marks in on-base percentage (.412) and slugging percentage (.598) en route to his top NL MVP finish in his career — third at worst, after placing 11th last year, sixth in 2017, and fifth back in 2014. He also won NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2016.
Aside from these award finishes, Rendon has always been grossly under-appreciated by most outside voting bodies — he just made his first All-Star game and won his second Silver Slugger award this season, and has still never won a Gold Glove — so it’s nice to see him finally get the attention he has long deserved.
Even so, this was an unexpected — and arguably unfortunate — twist for the Washington organization. A large chunk of the reason why the Nationals didn’t re-sign Bryce Harper was his price tag. They could wait until the next offseason and retain Rendon at a cheaper rate.
In all likelihood, Rendon will end up making more annual money than Harper (slightly under $25.4 million). Instead, his contract will likely rival the eight-year, $260 million extension that Nolan Arenado — the guy who controversially wins every NL third base accolade — received last offseason.
MLB Trade Rumors awarded Rendon with seven years and $235 million — slightly more annual money than Arenado, who is one year younger than his rival third baseman, over one less season. This also checks in higher than Manny Machado’s 10 year, $300 million deal with the Padres.
This projection also kept Rendon (their second-ranked free agent) in Washington. Without too strongly teasing what that means for Strasburg, here’s a nugget about the franchise’s finances:
There’s an additional Twitter thread that explains the Nationals’ breakdown against the luxury tax in more detail, but I’ll save it for a later article. For now, just know that Rendon is affordable without losing other free agents.
Most people will tell you that a lot of teams in need of a high-profile bat will be in the market for Rendon. I’m not so sure that will be the case. There aren’t many good teams that have a hole at third base. Allow me to demonstrate:
- Yankees: Miguel Angujar and DJ LeMahieu
- Red Sox: Rafael Devers
- Twins: Miguel Sano
- Indians: Jose Ramirez
- Astros: Alex Bregman
- Athletics: Matt Chapman
- Mariners: Kyle Seager
- Braves: Austin Riley (they may have a hole if he isn’t big-league ready)
- Phillies: Scott Kingery and Maikel Franco (possible opening… if he’s willing to go there)
- Mets: JD Davis and Jeff McNeil (see Phillies)
- Cardinals: Matt Carpenter (bounce-back candidate) and Tommy Edman
- Brewers: Would likely sooner bring back Mike Moustakas
- Cubs: Kris Bryant
- Dodgers: Justin Turner
- Diamondbacks: Eduardo Escobar
- Giants: Evan Longoria
- Rockies: Nolan Arenado
- Padres: Manny Machado
Every other team either likely won’t be competitive or won’t have the “disposal income” for him. It seems that the only competition should be the Phillies, Mets, and Rangers — since he’s from Texas. Anything else would be completely money-driven, and I don’t see that happening — even as a Scott Boras client.