What do the Nationals do with Anthony Rendon?

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Washington is playing too well to trade him, but ownership looks reluctant to pay him what he’s worth. Do they let him walk like they did with Bryce Harper?

Anthony Rendon is turning-in a career year. The Nationals third baseman is hitting .304/.386/.611 for a 149 wRC+. He’s already hit 20 homers leaving him six dingers shy of setting a new career high. Though he’ll miss the All Star game with minor leg injuries, Rendon was selected to his first All-Star game this year which goes to show how criminally underrated he has been.

At the end of the season, Anthony Rendon will become a free agent which presents the Nationals the problem of what to do with their underappreciated superstar. There are three possible outcomes for the Nationals to consider: they can sign him (either to an extension or after the season), they can extend a qualifying offer at the end of the year, or they can trade him.

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According to reports from Mark Zuckerman at MASNsports.com, the Nationals are trying to extend their third baseman. Rendon and his agent Scott Boras are likely looking for an contract similar to what Nolan Arenado received from the Rockies. In February, Arenado agreed to an eight-year, $260 million contract, but the Nationals might not want to go that high. Extension talks have recommenced over the last week, and Scott Boras’s visit to Washington might mean that talks are closer than where they were at the beginning of the year.

The Nationals appear to be the party that needs convincing, as they too, seem to undervalue him. Rendon’s camp seems amiable to an extension, but the Nationals haven’t wanted to match his asking price.

Because an extension seems so unlikely, there were rumblings early in the year that the Nationals would deal Rendon. They ended May with a 24-33 record, and a playoff push looked to be out of the cards. Having been one of the better bats available on the trade market, there isn’t a team out there that wouldn’t be improved by adding him to their roster. He could have been this year’s Manny Machado, but it’s looking more and more like he’ll be this year’s Bryce Harper: not traded and not re-signed.

A Rendon trade seems highly unlikely at this point. The Nationals have rebounded from their disastrous start and entered the All-Star break in the first Wild Card spot. FanGraphs gives them a 77.9 percent chance of making the playoffs. The removal of the August waiver wire means that there’s less time to wait and see how their season will turn out. The Nationals would effectively need to go winless for the rest of July and lose a few other guys to injury to consider trading Rendon at this point.

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If the Nationals aren’t going to trade Rendon and they aren’t going to sign him to a new contract, then it looks like they’ll let him walk in free agency. Since the Nationals have stayed under the Competitive Balance Threshold, Washington would receive a compensatory pick after Competitive Balance Round B in the 2020 draft. That’s not nothing, but whoever they select is unlikely to be as valuable as Rendon will be over the next few years.

This is shaping up to be a repeat of how the Nationals handled Bryce Harper last year, and even if the cost to keep contract around will be steep, Washington can ill-afford to let another superstar walk away.


Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.

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