Anthony Rendon didn’t want to talk about going onto the free agent market while the Washington Nationals were still active in the postseason this past October, deflecting inquiries about what the future held politely when reporters asked.
“I’m not even thinking down the road,” Rendon, 29, said during the NLCS.
“I don’t even know what I did yesterday, and I’m not even thinking about what I will do tomorrow. I live here, in the moment. One day at a time.”
Earlier this week, Davey Martinez wasn’t ready to accept the fact that he might not have Rendon on his roster for his third and what would have been Rendon’s eighth season in Washington.
“Right now, the way I look at it,” Martinez said, “I don’t try to think that Anthony’s gone until he’s gone and signs with another team. In the end, if that does happen, we’re going to look at other avenues and other things and try to fill that void, but it’s a tough one to fill.”
So how will they fill it? Rendon and the Los Angeles Angeles agreed on a 7-year/$245M deal last night, officially bringing an end to the 2011 1st Round pick’s time in the nation’s capital.
Rendon finished the 2019 campaign with a .319/.412/.598 line, 44 doubles, 34 homers, 117 runs scored, 126 RBIs, and 154 wRC+ in 146 games and 646 plate appearances, finishing up with a .969 fld%, (which was tied for fifth among qualified NL third basemen), +2 Defensive Runs Saved, (which were the sixth-most in the NL), and a +2.0 Ultimate Zone Rating, (which was fifth best), and he ended the year with a strong postseason run which saw him put up a .328/.413/.590 line, seven doubles, and three home runs in 17 games on the way to a World Series win.
“He was the guy that made our lineup go,” Martinez acknowledged. “He was the guy that was consistent all year long and has been his whole career. So it’s going to be a void that we need to figure out.”
They might need to figure it out in a hurry now as every team that missed out on Rendon and is still in the third base market is likely blowing up Josh Donaldson’s agent’s phone.
Talking to reporters last night, GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged that the Nationals needed to add an infielder one way or another, whether it was Rendon or another option.
“We’re looking for an infielder and we have the flexibility to be able to have that infielder be a third baseman or a second baseman,” he explained. “So we like that flexibility, but that’s one of those things that is on our wishlist, is to get ourselves a veteran infielder to go along with one of our younger players.”
Carter Kieboom, 22, is an in-house option at one of those two positions, though he did have rough go of it in his first stint in the majors, before returning to Triple-A and putting up big numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
“I think he’s a born and raised shortstop and we like the fact that shortstops can move to second and to third,” Rizzo said this week.
“We think he’s going to be a good defensive infielder be it at third base or second base, and with shortstop filled with Trea [Turner], we feel that he gives us options at both positions.”
The Nationals are rumored to be interested in free agent Josh Donaldson, who finished the 2019 campaign with a .259/.379/.521 line, 33 doubles, 37 home runs, 96 runs, 94 RBIs, and 132 wRC+ in 155 games and 659 PAs with the Atlanta Braves, over which he was worth +4.9 fWAR.
Donaldson, 34, was projected to get something in the neighborhood of a 3-year/$75M deal in free agency, though he’s, “increasingly seen as a candidate for a 4-year deal” as MLBTR’s reporters noted this week. So 4/$100 for a 34-year-old infielder?
Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty wrote on Twitter this week that the Nationals were ready, “ready to pivot to Donaldson as a replacement,” for Rendon if he signed elsewhere in free agency.
Where else can the Nationals turn for a third baseman if they can’t land Donaldson?
Those rumors about the Nats kicking the tires on Kris Bryant had some cold water thrown on them by the WaPost’s Dougherty yesterday:
Have heard that the Nationals have not been kicking the tires on a Kris Bryant trade with the Cubs. That could change, of course, but they are waiting for the free agent market to play out before considering trades, especially one of that magnitude.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) December 11, 2019
Where else could they look?
While Nats are looking at Donaldson they are engaged with several other infielders as well: Asdrubal, Maikel, Starlin and of course Zimmerman— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 11, 2019
Asdrúbal Cabrera? Maikel Franco (who was non-tendered by the Phillies this winter)? Starlin Castro? Ryan Zimmerman will likely be back at first base in 2020, but he’s not playing third base any time soo — ... ever again.
What do you think Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office will do now that they know for sure Rendon is not going to be back in D.C. next season?