Nolan Arenado reset the market for elite third basemen on Tuesday when he signed an eight-year, $260 million contract extension with the Colorado Rockies — a deal that could have implications on the Washington Nationals’ ongoing negotiations with Anthony Rendon.
Rendon, 28, is entering the final year of his rookie contract with Washington but is reportedly in talks with the team that drafted him sixth overall in 2011 for an extension that would keep him in D.C. for the rest of his prime and beyond.
Both Rendon and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo publicly expressed interest in working out an extension earlier this offseason. But according to The Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty, Rendon doesn’t consider working out an extension before Opening Day to be a “priority.”
“Obviously, they like me, so I guess that’s a good thing. It means I have been doing something right,” Rendon told reporters at the team’s annual WinterFest in December. “But, yeah, I’m up for it. We’ve been talking about it over the last year or so or whatever. If we can both come to an agreement and both sides are happy, why not?”
As much as the Nationals would like to lock up their home-grown star, Rendon’s happiness will come at a price.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Rendon is seeking a contract in the ballpark of second baseman Jose Altuve’s seven-year, $163.5 million extension with the Houston Astros that was agreed to in March 2018.
However, with the news of Arenado’s extension, the Nationals could be kicking themselves for not working out a deal sooner. While Arenado is a much more decorated player, his numbers aren’t very different than Rendon’s. Both players entered the league in 2013 and have since developed into two of the best third basemen in the game.
Nolan Arenado vs. Anthony Rendon, career statistics
It’s worth noting that Arenado’s raw numbers have been boosted by playing half his games at Coors Field. His career batting average is 57 points higher at home than on the road (.324 vs. .280) and 108 of his 186 homers have come in Denver. That difference is reflected by both his OPS+ and fWAR, which account for park effects and are eerily close to those of Rendon.
If Rendon, who’s represented by agent Scott Boras, decides to seek a deal closer to Arenado’s than Altuve’s, it’s not clear whether the Nats would be willing to match his demands. Given the fact that the two parties have had ongoing negotiations for at least the past year with no resolution, there’s seemingly a difference in how they each perceive Rendon’s value.
That isn’t to say Rendon wouldn’t settle for a hometown discount. The Nationals’ third baseman told reporters last week that he’s making the big decisions when it comes to his contract despite employing one of the most powerful agents in professional sports.
”The thing is, what everyone has the misconception of is, they think that we work for Scott,” Rendon said. “That’s not the way it works. I’m telling him how it’s going, and you can ask him. We’ve gotten into some jibber-jabbers before, too, so like, I’m paying him. Nah, that don’t fly with me.”
Boras indicated just as much in an interview with Dougherty on Friday.
“I work for Anthony,” Boras said. “He makes all the decisions and has directed me to listen and work with the Nationals regarding any contract discussions they choose to advance.”
Boras has a reputation for convincing his clients to seek the best possible deal on the free-agent market, but that isn’t always the case. Some of his clients have decided to re-sign with their former clubs, including Stephen Strasburg, Chris Davis and Jason Varitek.
If Rendon is indeed calling the shots in negotiations, he may care more about playing in D.C. than signing a record-setting contract.
Rendon is a year older than Arenado and likely won’t command as much money as the Rockies’ star infielder, but the latter’s new extension certainly paints a murkier picture of what a Rendon deal would look like.
The Nationals have already shown a willingness to pay $300 million over 10 years for Bryce Harper. Now they might have to decide if Rendon is worth something close to that number.