Rendon and general manager Mike Rizzo met this afternoon prior to batting practice before the Nationals’ series opener against the Giants, according to multiple sources familiar with the meeting, which took place in the team’s family room just outside the home clubhouse at Nationals Park. Managing principal owner Mark Lerner participated in the meeting as well, according to a source.
The end result of the meeting isn’t clear yet, but the fact it happened underscores the continued desire of both sides to continue talks in the hopes of consummating a deal that would keep Rendon in Washington long-term and prevent him from becoming a free agent at season’s end.
Rendon and the Nationals have talked on and off for more than a year, with the most recent meeting believed to have taken place in spring training. The two sides remained “far apart” after that last session, according to a source, but expressed a willingness to continue discussions.
Since watching Bryce Harper depart for a record $330 million contract with the Phillies in February, the Nationals have faced increased pressure to work out a deal with Rendon, who after a spate of extensions signed by other star players in recent months has become perhaps the top potential free agent on next winter’s market.
Rendon’s red-hot start to the season has only bolstered his case. The 28-year-old third baseman enters tonight’s game batting .400 with six homers, eight doubles, 17 RBIs and a 1.333 OPS that ranks second only to Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger among all qualifying National League hitters. He carries a 13-game hitting streak into this series against the Giants and on Sunday saw his streak of consecutive games with an extra-base hit end at 10.
At various points during the Nationals’ first two homestands, fans have greeted Rendon at-bats with chants of “Lock Him Up!”
Though he has stayed relatively under the radar during the course of a seven-year career that has included MVP votes three times but no All-Star Game selections, Rendon rates favorably with the best all-around players in baseball. Thus, the eight-year, $260 million extension fellow third baseman Nolan Arenado signed this spring with the Rockies serves as a natural comparison point for Rendon negotiations.
Though some players refuse to hold contract talks in-season, the Nationals already have proof a deal can get done, having signed Stephen Strasburg to his $175 million extension in May 2017, six months before he would have become a free agent. Rendon likewise has insisted he has no problem negotiating in-season.
“No, I don’t care,” he said this spring. “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 alright.”
The Nationals also are willing to continue talking, and Rizzo has insisted the diminishing pool of big-name free agents in next winter’s market won’t change their approach with Rendon.
“I think there’s going to be a point where we think a fair and equitable deal is on the table, and they’ll come to the point where they think a deal is fair and equitable, and then you’ll get a deal done,” Rizzo said late last month. “If not, I don’t think that the prospective free agent pool next year will affect us either way.”