WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - If he had his way, Anthony Rendon would never have to field a question about his pending free agency and ongoing talks with the Nationals about a long-term extension that would prevent him from ever becoming a free agent.
But Rendon, as media-averse as anyone on the Nats roster, understands that won’t be the case this year. Just as it was with Bryce Harper last season, this is going to loom over him throughout 2018. And that’s just not his cup of tea.
“Definitely. I might have to do more of these, probably,” Rendon said during the first of what perhaps will be more group interviews than he usually conducts in spring training. “That’s unfortunate for myself. But it’s part of the process, so I gotta keep my chin up and do it.”
That attitude, among other factors, makes it justified to wonder if Rendon will sign an extension with the Nationals sooner rather than later. The two sides have talked on and off for some time now, but to date haven’t progressed to the point where they’re close to a deal.
That doesn’t mean Rendon doesn’t want to keep trying.
“Yeah, we talked about it over the last year or so, and if both parties can be happy, then we’ll see,” he said. “If not, then we’ll see what happens. We had more discussions (this winter), but I can’t lay all the cards out on the table for y’all. I gotta leave y’all in suspicion.”
It’s not unfair to question if Harper’s ongoing saga has been a serious detriment to the Nationals’ potential discussions with Rendon. Though club officials insist one case isn’t directly tied to the other, common sense suggests the Nats can’t seriously negotiate a nine-figure offer with Rendon until they know for sure Harper isn’t coming back.
Though he couldn’t help but follow as the trials and tribulations of Harper, Manny Machado and other free agents extended into spring training, Rendon insists he can’t worry about what that might mean for him. If this thing drags on into the regular season and beyond, he won’t let it negatively impact his performance.
“No, I don’t care,” he said. “We can talk as much you want. I’m all ears. I’m a great listener. But it’s not going to distract me. At least I say it won’t. And if it does become an issue, then I’ll address it. But thus far, it’s been all right.”
It’s one thing for a player to claim he’s not distracted during a contract year. It’s another thing for those around him to recognize whether that’s true or not.
Manager Davey Martinez is keenly aware of the implications of a walk year. He just went through it with Harper, and he believes he knows how best to help Rendon navigate his way through the minefield.
“Obviously, Bryce and I had a lot of conversations about just to get him to focus on today and not worry about it,” Martinez said. “(Rendon) is one of the best young players in the game. I’ll continue to have that conversation if need be. Anthony and Bryce are two different people. I think Anthony will handle things a little differently. We will see if it comes. I think he’ll go out there and play the game. I watch him take BP. I watch him go through everything. And nothing has changed.”
Which isn’t to say Rendon has totally removed himself from the contract process. Quite the opposite, actually.
It may seem a little out of character for a guy who loves to come across as indifferent to everything in his baseball life, but Rendon wants to be part of contract negotiations, even with the powerful Scott Boras representing him. And he’s not afraid to let that be known.
“I like to be involved, for sure,” he said. “What everyone has the misconception of is, they think that we work for Scott. Like, no. That’s not the way it works. Like, I’m telling him how’s it going. And you can ask him. We’ve gotten in some jibber-jabbers before, too. So, like, I’m paying him. Nah, that don’t fly with me.”