With Bryce Harper possibly moving on in free agency, the strategy of how to stop the Nationals offense may now turn toward third baseman Anthony Rendon. That’s because his slugging percentage has gone up in each of his last three seasons: .450 to .533 to .535. In the last two seasons, he has combined for 49 homers and 192 RBIs in 283 games. But he also has hit consistently: .301 and .308 in 2017 and 2018, respectively. A better than .900 OPS demonstrates how lethal he has been in the Nats lineup.
Rendon put on a late season surge that almost netted him back-to-back 100 RBI seasons that impressed manager Davey Martinez.
MLB Network released its rankings for third baseman in the “Right Now!” program on Jan. 14. They listed Rendon at No. 4 in the major leagues. Here are their top 10 third basemen:
1. José Ramírez, Cleveland Indians
2. Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
4. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
5. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
6. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
7. Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics
8. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
9. Josh Donaldson, Atlanta Braves
10. Eugenio Suárez, Cincinnati Reds
MLB Network analyst Gold Glove Award-winning third baseman Mike Lowell had high praise for Rendon: “He’s (hit for power) two years in a row. Before it was like, ‘Well, he’s an above average All-Star-caliber (player).’ Now he’s shown he has the capability of being an elite third baseman. I think he goes a little bit under the radar because Bryce Harper gets all the hype there in Washington. This year is gonna be especially interesting for me if Bryce Harper does not re-sign with the Nationals because then all that onus, all that dedication from the opposition’s pitchers is gonna be, ‘We cannot let Anthony Rendon beat us.’ “
For all the buzz about Harper was getting with the big contract offers during this offseason, Rendon will have the same opportunity to take center stage next year if he is not re-signed during this season. Scott Boras is also his agent, so you wonder if negotiations with Rendon will play out differently than Harper’s?
Maybe Rendon’s less flamboyant style will be similar to the quiet Stephen Strasburg, and the third baseman will work out a new contract with his team that won’t challenge the luxury tax threshold. Maybe he can get a deal that will still be very competitive with what a player like Rendon deserves, but not break the bank or handcuff the Nats from making other deals as they work out a 25-man roster for 2020. I expect it to be done before the 2019 season is completed.
But the bottom line with this latest ranking is that Rendon is highly regarded by teams and players around the league, not just in D.C. Rendon’s power bat and consistent pate awareness are other obstacles a pitcher has to get around to have any chance to silence the Nationals offense.