To say Anthony Rendon was less than thrilled that he ended up on TMZ this weekend would be an understatement. He was not happy about it. At all. But he did acknowledge that it sort of comes with the territory when you’re a teammate of Bryce Harper’s and Harper is testing the free agent market.
Does he get asked about Harper often?
“Apparently a lot,” Rendon joked, “apparently TMZ is finding me. That man has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated since he was like 15, so if you’re on the same team as him everyone knows about him, so I’ll get a lot of, ‘You play for the Nats? You know Bryce?’
“‘No, never seen him before.’”
If you missed the TMZ clip, you can watch it here:
While Harper’s future is the biggest story this winter, Rendon is set to become a free agent after the 2019 campaign if he and the Nationals don’t agree on a long-term extension over the next year.
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters at Winterfest on Saturday afternoon that he would like to get something done with the third baseman, who was the sixth overall pick in 2011’s MLB Draft, when the General Manager was asked if he’s pushing for an extension.
“I think we should, and I think we have,” Rizzo said, “and I think we will continue to do so.
“He’s a guy that we drafted, signed, and developed, and he’s one of our own, so he’s a terrific player that nobody talks about.”
Rendon told reporters on Sunday that he understands and appreciates how much the Nats value him, and he said that he appreciated the talk of a long-term deal.
“Honored, I guess you could say,” Rendon explained. “Start with that. Obviously they like me so I guess that’s a good thing. That means I’ve been doing something right, but yeah, I’m up for it, we’ve been talking about it over the last year or so or whatever, so if we can both come to an agreement and both sides are happy, why not?”
He did, however, say that he’s not concerned about the possibility of playing out the 2019 campaign without an extension.
“No, no, that’s out of my control,” Rendon said.
“The only thing I can control is one game at a time, so I’m worried about that. Shoot, I might pass away before the end of the season comes, our plane might crash or something.”
If a deal is going to get done, would he, ideally, like to get it done before the season starts?
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “Like I said, if we can come to terms, that’s awesome, but if not, then I’ll play this season and I’ll see what happens in free agency.”
As for why he would consider signing on in D.C. for the foreseeable future before even testing the market, Rendon said it had a lot to do with comfortability.
“I think just the fact that this is all I’ve know thus far. They drafted me — in 2011 — that was a long time ago, so just growing familiar with the place and so you kind of have a soft spot I guess for your hometown or your first team.”
The Nationals’ interest in locking him up is likely less about sentimentality and more about his production over the first six years of his career (.285/.361/.469, 25.8 fWAR, which is the second-highest Wins Above Replacement among NL third baseman between 2013-2018, behind only the St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter).
Rendon is also coming off a .308/.374/.535, 44 double, 24 home run, 6.3 fWAR campaign in which he missed time with a fracture big toe, the result of a foul ball, but still managed to produce the numbers the Nationals have come to expect from the infielder.
“I think it’s just crazy how I ended up with the numbers that I had after you know fouling a ball of my toe and then getting hit by a pitch,” he said, “so those are the things that are kind of frustrating, because it’s not like it had anything to do with me or the way I was taking care of my body. Like I didn’t pull a hamstring or things like that, it was just freak accidents, I guess you could say what are the chances I foul a ball of my big toe and fracture it, or what are the chances I get hit on the wrist on a ball. It’s a little frustrating, but like I said, that’s part of the game, so just got to keep on rolling and just try to do the best you can with what you’ve got left.”
Will the Nationals make the most of the time they have left to lock Rendon up before the 29 other major league teams have a shot at signing him?