Wherever the Washington Nationals went this winter, fans wanted to know, “Where is Bryce Harper going to sign?”
Max Scherzer, a teammate of Harper’s for four seasons, said he was fine with the questions when he spoke to reporters at WinterFest in early December.
“We’ve dealing with it for a while,” Scherzer said.
“This isn’t a new thing. We’ve been dealing with it for a little more than two years now. That’s just the business part of the game. It’s with every player. As soon as Bryce signs, then we’re going to be talking about [Anthony] Rendon. And that’s just the way it goes. I’ve been down that road.”
“That’s baseball at the highest level,” Scherzer, (who signed a 7-year/$210M deal when he hit the free agent market in 2014-2015, after turning down what was reportedly a 6-year/$144M offer from the Detroit Tigers), added.
“Contracts are part of the game, and they’re also exciting too.”
Harper still hasn’t signed (as of 10:57 PM EDT on Wednesday 2/20/19), and Rendon and the Nationals haven’t worked out an extension that will keep the 28-year-old, 2011 1st Rounder around Washington beyond 2019.
Rendon reiterated, when he spoke with reporters Wednesday in West Palm Beach, FL, that he is still open to the idea of a long-term extension with the only team he’s ever known.
“We talked about it over the last year or so,” Rendon explained, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“And if both parties can be happy, then we’ll see. If not, then we’ll see what happens. We had more discussions (this winter), but I can’t lay all the cards out on the table for y’all. I gotta leave y’all in suspicion.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was clear this winter that he would like to work something out and keep Rendon in the nation’s capital.
“I think we should,” Rizzo said when asked if he would push for a deal to happen. “And I think we have, 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 is coming off a .308/.374/.535, 44 double, 24 home run, 6.3 fWAR campaign, and he’s put up a combined .285/.361/.469 line and 25.8 fWAR in his six MLB campaigns, with the second-highest Wins Above Replacement among NL third baseman from 2013-2018.
Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said on Wednesday that he wasn’t concerned, and didn’t think Rendon was worried about how things will play out over the next season.
“He knows he’s going to get a contract, whether it’s from us or free agency, but he knows how we feel about him,” Martinez said.
How will he help his third baseman avoid having the contract talks become a distraction?
“I just want him to focus on today,” the manager said. “He knows he’s a free agent. He knows — for me he’s an All-Star, he’s a Gold Glover. What he does for us is impeccable.
“It really is. So I think Anthony is just going to play the game and when things happen they happen.”
Rendon said he was happy to keep talking about a contract all season, unless it becomes a distraction, though he doesn’t think it will.
“We can talk as much you want. I’m all ears. I’m a great listener. But it’s not going to distract me. At least I say it won’t. And if it does become an issue, then I’ll address it. But thus far, it’s been all right.”
“I think for me Anthony is a constant professional,” Martinez continued. “He’s not going to talk about it much. He knows what he needs to do and his focus is on helping us win. You guys all know Anthony, he doesn’t say much about much, but I know what I’m going to get from him on the field day in and day out.”
Martinez was asked if there were any lessons to take from the process Harper went through last season (and is still going through as of 11:03 PM EDT on Wednesday, 2/20/19), that might help navigate what could potentially be Rendon’s last season in a Nationals uniform.
“Obviously Bryce and I had a lot of conversations about it,” he said, “... and just getting him to focus and not worry about it. He’s one of the best young players in the game. And I’ll continue to have that conversation if need be. Like we said, Anthony and Bryce are two different people. I think Anthony will handle things a little differently. But we’ll see when it comes, I think he’s just going to go out there and play the game. I’ve watched him take BP, I’ve watched him go through everything and nothing’s changed. Early in Spring Training last year, all he wanted to do was stay on the ball, hit the ball to right field. He came in and had the same game plan, same mindset, and wasn’t going to try to do too much and it’s good to see.”