Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon are free agents. They’ve been free agents for a month now. One or both could still end up re-signing with the Nationals. But right now, they’re free agents. Which means they’re free to talk to any club that wants to talk to them.
It all sounds so basic, but sometimes we tend to forget basic matters. As much as everyone in Washington wants to believe Strasburg and Rendon prefer to return to the only franchise they’ve ever played for, you just don’t become a free agent and not see what the market has to offer.
What does the market have to offer these two superstars? Well, we’re about to find out. After a quiet November, things are starting to percolate a bit here in the first week of December. And with the winter meetings set to open for business next week in San Diego, that percolation is only going to expand.
The last couple of days have seen the first round of reports of interest and face-to-face meetings involving the Nationals’ two biggest free agents of the offseason. Rendon reportedly met with the Rangers and Dodgers. Strasburg reportedly is meeting with the Yankees. More teams and more meetings undoubtedly are coming soon.
This will cause - if it hasn’t already - some panic to set in around these parts.
Should it? That’s harder to say.
Look, teams with money to spend and ambitions of winning the next World Series are going to make serious attempts to lure two of the players most responsible for helping the Nationals win the last World Series. They’d be crazy not to.
The Dodgers desperately want to win their first title in 32 years, and they remain bitterly disappointed about the manner in which they were knocked out in the National League Division Series this year (by the Nationals, of course). Of course, they’re going to target Rendon, and perhaps Strasburg as well.
The Yankees desperately want to open the 2020s by achieving something they did not achieve once in the 2010s: reach the World Series. In the Bronx, that’s an interminably long drought. Of course, they’re going to go all-in on acquiring an elite starting pitcher, with Strasburg and Gerrit Cole at the top of the wish list.
The Rangers desperately want to return to contention in their first season in a new ballpark. Of course, they’re going to want to make a big splash in free agency, and who better to do that with than a Texas native and elite all-around player like Rendon.
The Padres, boldly attempting to become relevant, aren’t going to let an opportunity to court Strasburg back to his hometown slip away. The Angels, having already wasted Mike Trout’s historic career to date, have to do something to give themselves a chance to return to the postseason. The Phillies want to keep adding one year after signing Bryce Harper. The Braves want to do more than simply reach the postseason again.
So, yes, there is no shortage of ballclubs that are going to have varying degrees of interest in Rendon and Strasburg. They wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t pursue these guys.
And Rendon and Strasburg wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t explore all their options this winter. Each is coming off a dominant season and even better postseason, just as each was about to be eligible for free agency. They couldn’t have timed this any better.
Rendon and Strasburg owe it to themselves to see what’s out there. And their agent, Scott Boras, is going to do his job and present his clients with as many viable options as he can.
What does this all mean for the Nationals? It means they’re probably going to have to wait for a bit to get resolution.
They don’t need to sell themselves to these two players. Rendon and Strasburg know everything they need to know about the franchise, the city and the future prospects for success.
What they don’t know yet is how much money they can make somewhere else, whether the Nationals can match or top that and whether that’s more important to either than the comfort of returning to a familiar place for many more years to come.
The ball is entirely in their court. There’s not much the Nationals can do, aside from make legitimate offers to both stars and then sit back and wait to see how this winter’s most nerve-wracking drama plays out.