SAN DIEGO - In the end, Anthony Rendon chose to switch coasts and switch leagues but still manage to stay out of the spotlight he strives to avoid by signing with a franchise that already has two of the game’s biggest stars on its roster.
Rendon agreed in principle to a seven-year, $245 million contract with the Angels tonight, according to a source familiar with the terms, ending his time with the Nationals after seven spectacular seasons and one World Series title that sealed his legacy in D.C. even if he never played another game there.
Pursued to some extent by the Rangers and Dodgers as well this week at the Winter Meetings, Rendon ultimately chose not to return to his home state of Texas or thrust himself into the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. The 29-year-old third baseman instead decided to head to Anaheim, where he’ll join a roster that already features the best player in baseball (Mike Trout) and an international two-way superstar (Shohei Ohtani).
It’s a marriage that seems to make sense for a player who has always shied away from the spotlight since he made his major league debut for the Nationals in 2013.
Despite his consistently stellar production - he’s the only player in the majors to hit .299 while averaging 25 homers and 100 RBIs the last four seasons, and a perennial Gold Glove candidate - Rendon has spent much of his career in relative obscurity from a national perspective. And inside a Nationals clubhouse that has featured stars like Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer, Rendon was able to keep a low profile and just go about his business as he prefers.
That dynamic did change this year, though. With Harper playing up the road in Philadelphia after signing a then-record deal in February, Rendon put together the best all-around season of his career, batting .319 with 34 homers and a league-high 44 doubles and 126 RBIs. He then really rose to the occasional in the postseason, hitting .328 with three homers (all late in elimination games) and 15 RBIs to help lead the Nationals to their first World Series title and earn a new appreciation across the baseball world.
That big-stage performance, though, only drove up Rendon’s asking price once he hit the open market for the first time last month. And that probably hindered the Nationals’ chances of re-signing him.
The Nats front office made several attempts over the last few seasons to try to lock up Rendon before he became a free agent, but never managed to seal the deal. The last known offer they extended - late in the regular season - was for seven years and roughly $210 million, though a sizeable amount of money would have been deferred, a sticking point for Rendon, according to a source close to the player.
Rendon appeared to be softening that stance in recent days, according to the same source, especially after watching Stephen Strasburg agree to $80 million in deferrals on his just-signed contract for the same total of $245 million.
Strasburg, whose deal was agreed upon last weekend and announced Monday to open the Winter Meetings, also had been openly pitching both Rendon and Nationals ownership to try to work out a deal, according to a source who has spoken with the pitcher.
In the end, the Angels’ mammoth offer proved too good for Rendon to pass up. Agent Scott Boras met with their front office this evening at the Manchester Grand Hyatt and finalized terms of their deal around 10:45 p.m. Eastern time.
The Nationals will now try to fill a gaping hole in their lineup, with only one big-name third baseman available: Josh Donaldson. The 34-year-old former American League MVP hit .259 with 37 homers and 94 RBIs for the Braves this season and could be in line for a deal in the range of four years and $100 million.
There will be competition for Donaldson’s services, though, with the Braves and Rangers also in pursuit of the slugger.