According to a report by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman last night, Washington Nationals’ starter Stephen Strasburg, who just signed a 7-year/$245M deal with the Nationals on Monday, is lobbying for Anthony Rendon to come back as well.
Rendon, 29, is a free agent this winter, and arguably the best position player on the market, and in spite of recent comments by Managing Principal owner Mark Lerner about the team being able to afford just one of the two big-ticket free agents, both GM Mike Rizzo and the agent for the third baseman and starter, Scott Boras, said Strasburg’s deal was set up like it was (with $80M reportedly deferred) with the team’s ability to build a contender in mind.
“You look at the history of the Nationals and the way we’ve positioned ourselves and the details of the contract and the way that it’s structured,” Rizzo explained when asked how Strasburg’s deal affected the team’s pursuit of Rendon on Monday, “this ownership group has never shied away from putting the resources together to field a championship-caliber club.
“I don’t see them in any way hindering us from going after the elite players in the game.”
“When you look at those comments,” he added, referring to Mr. Lerner’s comments to NBC Sports Washington last week, “and then you look at the structure of this particular deal and the structure of deals we’ve had getting up to where we are right now, I think that Mark realizes that there’s ways to fit players in, there’s ways that you can field a championship-caliber roster — and, again, the resources have always been there, so I don’t expect that to change.”
“I think when you go to do these contracts, in fairness to Mark and everyone else,” Boras said on Monday, “… you really don’t know what can be done inside a contract to create opportunities so that aspects of the team can be looked at a little differently than was even anticipated, and Stephen had that in mind when he directed me to negotiate and create a value, a fair market value for him, but also a structure that allowed the team to continue at a championship level.”
“Obviously, there’s measures in this contract that allow for the club to extend the payouts a few extra years in the contract that allows the immediacy of their payroll in the current year is where it has more flexibility,” Boras added.
As for Strasburg making a pitch to Rendon and the Nats’ ownership, trying to get the 2011 1st Round pick back with the only team either of them has ever known, MASN’s Zuckerman said that the pitcher has taken an active role in the recruiting effort.
“The World Series MVP and new recipient of the largest contract ever given to a pitcher has been actively trying to convince Rendon to return to Washington while also encouraging the Nationals’ front office to do everything possible to bring the star third baseman back, according to a source who has been in touch with Strasburg.”
Boras said on Day 2 of the Winter Meetings that the structure of Strasburg’s new deal should allow the Nationals to add not just Rendon, but other players they need.
“I think Mark [Lerner’s] comments were before the Strasburg negotiations were complete. And that contract structure that Stephen did allowed certainly an opening and a consideration that probably the Nationals were available to them in their decision making. So I think it’s something that clearly opens doors for them. And when you look at their payroll structure, and the amount of money they have in the $60-$70 million range with their payroll, I think they can sign not only an Anthony Rendon but many players.”
Zuckerman also notes that while the deferred money in the rumored 7-year/$210-$215M the Nationals made in September was an issue for Rendon, “… the third baseman is more willing to consider it now, according to the source.”
With things moving quickly this winter, relative to the last few offseasons, is a decision from Rendon close?
“We’ve had conversations about Anthony throughout the process,” Rizzo said last night.
“I don’t get my daily update from Scott [Boras], but I don’t sense anything is imminent at this point, but that was a while ago, so you never know.”
Whether it’s Rendon, another third baseman (Josh Donaldson?) or a second baseman, the Nationals, Rizzo said, are in the market for an infielder this winter.
“We’re looking for an infielder and we have the flexibility to be able to have that infielder be a third baseman or a second baseman,” the GM said.
“So we like that flexibility,” he continued.
“But that’s one of those things that is on our wishlist, is to get ourselves a veteran infielder to go along with one of our younger players.”