What should Nats do about Rendon?

Ben Krimmel
May 25, 2019 - 5:52 pm

The Washington Nationals snapped a five-game losing streak Friday but they didn't improve their standing. The Philadelphia Phillies remain 10 games ahead in the NL East. 

The Nats started Memorial Day Weekend at 20-31 on the season and are closer to contending for a top pick in next year's draft than a spot in the postseason. Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga has called 2019 a lost season.

Which raises the question: Should the Nationals consider unloading assets, including free agent at the end of the season Anthony Rendon?

Rendon is the Nats' best position player, he doesn't turn 29 until June, and would be the cornerstone of the franchise after the departure of Bryce Harper in the offseason. But signing him to an extension could be difficult, as Rendon's agent, Scott Boras, drives a very hard bargain and ownership has been reluctant to extend homegrown players.

"We're aggressively trying to sign Anthony Rendon," Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said on 106.7 The Fan this week. "Anthony Rendon is a guy that we drafted, developed, signed and watched turn into a star in front of our eyes. He's a guy that we would like to have long term.

"We're certainly going to be aggressive and try and make that happen, and hopefully he'll go. We have shown that we are not afraid to sign our own players. We're not afraid to sign free agent players. We're not afraid to spend money on stars of the game and I don't think Anthony Rendon would be any different," Rizzo told The Fan.

However, what if the front office's aggressive offer doesn't get it done?

"But if you can't get it done," Svrluga told Grant & Danny Friday. "Then you've got to trade him, you can't fall into the (situation) which they did with Bryce Harper last year and have a deal in place and have ownership not be able to pull the trigger."

Last season at the trade deadline it was ownership who vetoed a deal to send Harper to the Astros. (Harper, of course, would go on to sign with the Phillies.) 

And Grant Paulsen said earlier this week according to a person who recently spoke to Boras "the Nationals already missed the boat on getting a deal done with Anthony Rendon." 

Paulsen argues the Nationals are at a crossroads: What kind of franchise are they going to be? One that signs homegrown talent who they "watched turn into a star" or one that continues to let it walk out the door saving their money for other team's free agents?

"I get what (the Nationals) did with Harper," Paulsen said Friday. "At some point, you gotta figure out what we want to be here? What market are we in?"

Part of the question will depend upon what happens in the next several weeks of play. If the ballclub can turn this awful start around, keeping Rendon through the season is a given and the organization can budget for a hefty extension and prepare an offer. 

But if the Nationals continue to stumble, the decision becomes easier to make but harder for fans to swallow: Trading Rendon may be the smart move.

Former MLB executive David Samson told The Sports Junkies this week time has run out on the 2019 Nats and it is time for them to start over.

"You've got an unbelievable, top-tier rotation but it's being wasted right now with no rings, no World Series appearances," Samson told 106.7 The Fan. "So put it this way: Whatever you guys are doing right now and the way it's been done, you've gotta start doing it differently."

To Samson, part of staring over included attempting to sign Rendon long-term, but also be willing to trade him if Washington can get solid pieces in return.

With two months before the trade deadline, Rizzo isn't ready to toss in the towel on the 2019 season.

"We’re not making any decisions with a third of the season gone,” Rizzo said before Friday night's game. “We’ve got a lot of season left." 

(Listen to the full interview here.)

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