Grant & Danny: Lerner wrong to say Nats can't afford Rendon, Strasburg

The Fan News Desk
December 06, 2019 - 3:30 pm

By Scott Gelman

Can the Washington Nationals really not afford to re-sign both Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon?

Principal owner Mark Lerner told NBC Sports Washington, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys.” But 106.7 The Fan’s Grant & Danny believe this isn't a matter of being unable to afford the two high-priced free agents.

“Whenever I hear a person who has a financial situation unfathomable to every person listening to this broadcast," The Fan's Danny Rouhier said Friday. "Whenever I hear them use the word, ‘We can’t afford,’ that will reflexively make me irritated and upset. I know that’s not what he meant, I'm just saying that bothers me and it bothers a lot of people."

Ted Lerner, who passed on the controlling stake of the team to his son Mark in June 2018, is worth more than $5 billion, according to Forbes.

“You can afford both,” Rouhier said. “Afford is not the right word. Is it the smartest business practice? Is it the best way to build the team? You can afford anything you want.”

Lerner’s latest comments come nearly a year to the day after he indicated the Nationals wouldn’t re-sign Bryce Harper. On Dec. 7, 2018, after the Nats announced the signing of Patrick Corbin, Lerner told 106.7 The Fan after meeting with Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, "Well, when we met with them and we gave them the offer, we told them, 'This is the best we can do.' We went right to the finish line very quickly.'"

In a response to Lerner, Boras told The Athletic, "The Nationals are experiencing a revenue festival in 2020,” Boras said via a text message to Ken Rosenthal. “World Series momentum has blossomed, millions in DC. The franchise value has increased by nearly $2 billion since their purchase. The Nationals made an extra $30 million winning the World Series. Attendance will increase by more than four to five hundred thousand. TV ratings and advertising rates all skyrocketed.

“Everyone in DC knows special cherry trees create revenue bloom," Boras said.

Grant & Danny agreed that when it comes to Strasburg and Rendon (who are also represented by Boras) if Lerner did not say "afford" but instead about the team's long-term strategy and budgeting, the news would have been easier to digest. 

“If you’re asking me to pick a side, in this particular case the arguments are ‘They can’t afford both’ or ‘Sure, they can afford both,’ I’m going ‘B’ not ‘A’ here,” Grant Paulsen said Friday. 

Rouhier added if the Nats' reason for not re-signing both players is about planning for the future the decision is a defendable one.

“If your point is, 'It’s probably not great because if we (sign) both guys their 'salary cap' figure would be so huge we can’t fill out the rest of the roster and we'll pay the luxury tax and then when it comes time to sign other guys we'll be worse in the long term if we sign both because their contracts are gonna be huge, which they've earned because they're great players.' That’s not unreasonable,” Rouhier said. “If you’re saying the best way for us to build this team to continue this amazing window and this wonderful run isn't to sign both guys and we have to fill out our roster in a different way, I think people understand that.

"It's just bothersome," Rouhier continues, "after this run, after everything that's happened, all the good feelings, all the emotions, all the wonderful stuff, and these are two homegrown guys, to hear, 'Yeah, we can't afford both.' I don't get the upside here."

Paulsen summed it up this way: "I categorically disagree that after winning a World Series with the windfall of money coming into this organization that you couldn't pay both of these guys."

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