It appears that the Washington Nationals might have to choose between right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon, instead of bringing back both free agents as they hope for a repeat of this year's World Series victory.
In an interview with NBC Sports Washington's Donald Dell, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner admitted that his team "can only afford to have one of those two guys" returning to the club for the 2020 MLB season and beyond. He explained that this is because of the Nationals' "really large payroll," as well as the expectation that Strasburg and Rendon will demand lucrative contracts as two of the most sought-after free agents in the market.
Talking about the chances that Strasburg or Rendon would re-sign with the Nationals, Lerner told Dell that the team is pursuing both players, but at the end of the day, it will be their call whether they want to return to Washington or not. He added that the organization is also keeping its options open in free agency in the event either player — or both — decides to sign elsewhere.
"Again, it's not up to us. We can give them a great offer — which we've done to both of those players. They're great people. We'd be delighted if they stay. But it's not up to us, it's up to them. That's why they call it free agency."While NBC Sports Washington noted that Lerner's revelation represents a new development, the outlet opined that it isn't surprising that he made such a statement about two of his team's biggest stars. It was noted that almost one year ago to this day, the Nationals owner said that he wasn't expecting right fielder Bryce Harper to return to Washington, adding that the team had "decided to move on" from their former No. 1 overall draft pick, who eventually signed an unprecedented 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in February. As noted by USA Today, Strasburg is coming off a season where he won a National League-leading 18 games and earned World Series MVP honors for his performance against the Houston Astros. While the 31-year-old righty has already had meetings with the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers, MLB.com's J.P. Morosi recently pointed out that the market for his services is now "wide-open."
As for Rendon, the third baseman met with the Texas Rangers over the weekend, though the Dodgers are still considered the top favorite to sign the 29-year-old. Although he only finished third to Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger in this year's NL MVP voting, Rendon still had a great year for Washington, hitting a career-high 34 home runs and an MLB-leading 126 RBI.