Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports that, sometime in early September, the Washington Nationals made star third baseman and free-agent-to-be Anthony Rendon a seven-year deal worth between $210-215 million. Svrluga says that deal is not expected to keep Rendon from exploring the market after he’s officially a free agent next month.
Before assessing this offer, it’s worth remembering that this is very similar to what happened with Bryce Harper last year. Then, in early November, a report came out — from the same reporter — that the Nationals had, a couple of months earlier, made an “aggressive” offer to Harper. It was eventually revealed that the deal was massively backloaded and not worth nearly that which Harper ultimately received in real dollars from the Phillies. In hindsight it all seemed orchestrated by the Nationals to feign interest in Harper and be able to say, later, if fans got mad, “hey, we tried.”
This one seems a bit different than that. Svrluga, an excellent reporter and well-aware of the Harper thing, notes up front that this deal, while somewhat backloaded, is nowhere near as backloaded as Harper’s deal was. It’s also the case that the ultimately outlay to Rendon is going to be way less than it was for Harper given his age compared to Harper (Rendon turns 30 next season), and it’s not like the Nationals haven’t given out big contracts in the recent past. They certainly have. So, no, the story isn’t “the Nationals are cheap and they’re pretending to want to keep Rendon.” They seem more committed to Rendon than Harper in a lot of says.
But it is weird that, for the second year in a row, someone with the Nationals — and I strongly suspect this is a Nats leak as opposed to a Rendon/Scott Boras leak — felt it necessary to do this and it makes me wonder why they’d do this. Especially given that in less than 12 hours Rendon and the Nationals are going to be playing in the Wild Card game.
If Rendon stays in Washington we’ll likely hear no more of this offer again. If he leaves, I suspect someone will talk about it later in the offseason just as they did with Harper’s offer, giving us some more insight into how the Nats front office operation works.