Perfectly timed career year sets Rendon up for huge payday

As our offseason coverage kicks into high gear, we’re going to review each significant player on the Nationals roster. We continue today with Anthony Rendon, who picked the perfect time to put together an MVP-caliber regular season and postseason.

Rendon-Runs-Blue-sidebar.jpgPLAYER REVIEW: ANTHONY RENDON

Age on opening day 2020: 29

How acquired: First-round pick, 2011 draft

MLB service time: 6 years, 130 days

2019 salary: $18.8 million

Contract status: Free agent

2019 stats: 146 G, 646 PA, 545 AB, 117 R, 174 H, 44 2B, 3 3B, 34 HR, 126 RBI, 5 SB, 1 CS, 80 BB, 86 SO, .319 AVG, .412 OBP, .598 SLG, 1.010 OPS, 153 OPS+, 2 DRS, 7.0 fWAR, 6.3 bWAR

2019 postseason stats: 17 G, 75 PA, 61 AB, 11 R, 20 H, 7 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 11 BB, 10 SO, .328 AVG, .413 OBP, .590 SLG, 1.003 OPS

Quotable: “We certainly want to keep him. That’s 110 percent. It’s really in Tony’s and his family’s hands at this point. They have to decide what they want to do. He’s earned that right as a free agent. It couldn’t happen to a better guy. We love him to death. And I hope that his decision is to stay here and I’ll go pick him up and bring him over.” - Mark Lerner, Oct. 15

2019 analysis: Rendon doesn’t seek or crave attention. We’ve known that since he debuted in the big leagues more than six years ago. But to his credit, he knew when he arrived in West Palm Beach this spring he couldn’t avoid the spotlight altogether. With Bryce Harper gone, he was about to become the focal point of the Nationals lineup. And with his own free agency looming, he was going to be the center of attention far more than ever before.

How did Rendon handle all that? Just as he’s handled everything else in his career. He took the field every night and did his job exceptionally well. Unlike some previous seasons, there was no slow start; he hit .356 with a 1.182 OPS in March/April. And though he missed more than two weeks after getting hit by a pitch on the elbow, he immediately jumped back into the lineup and picked up right where he left off.

Rendon really shone in situations of consequence. He hit .365 with runners in scoring position, .362 with two outs and runners in scoring position, .402 in high-leverage at-bats and .331 in the seventh inning or later. Is it any wonder he led the majors with 126 RBIs?

Folks around D.C. had known for a long time that Rendon is one of the best all-around players in baseball. Folks around the world then joined the club in October as he continued to rise to the occasion and help carry his team to a championship.

2020 outlook: You may have heard by now that Rendon is a free agent. (Wait, really? When did that happen?) He couldn’t have picked a better time to put together the best season of his career and add a stellar postseason on top of that. He’ll deserve every penny he gets this winter. It’s just a question of who will give him the most pennies.

Rendon would like to return to D.C. He has been consistent with that stance. But he also wants to be paid like one of the best players in baseball, and he has been consistent with that stance as well. He’s got all the cards in his hand, because the Nationals know how badly they need to keep him, with no obvious replacement for him at third base or in the heart of their lineup (unlike the situation last winter with Harper).

How far are the Nats willing to go? Would they give Rendon eight years and $240 million, hoping his skills don’t deteriorate too much as he reaches his mid-30s? Would they try to entice him to take a shorter deal for more dollars per year, perhaps $35 million per year? If he doesn’t return, where else would Rendon go? Texas? Anaheim? Atlanta? Philly?

The final answer to that question will send some major shockwaves down South Capitol Street and throughout the baseball world.

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