Nationals Baseball: Rendon or Bryce

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Rendon or Bryce

So in the comments the guys are mulling over a question. If forced to sign one or the other, do you sign Rendon or do you sign Bryce?

That may seem like a silly argument but let's take it seriously. Why would we even have this debate? Well the facts are that last year Anthony Rendon was probably more valuable than Bryce Harper. While he didn't hit as well (Bryce .319 / .413 / .595, Rendon .301 / .403 / .533) he still was very good at the plate. At the same time Rendon is a much better fielder and played 36 more games. That playing time and defense difference more than makes up for Bryce's advantage at the plate and Rendon was probably somewhere between a little and a lot more valuable to the Nats last year.

So on that base level a comparison makes sense. Of course we have to take it further.

Defensively, the is no argument. Bryce is just getting by in the outfield, not shining but not an embarrassment.* Rendon is one of the best 3rd basemen in baseball. This is an advantage that Rendon should hold for as long as weird health issues don't change things (see Zimmerman, Ryan)

Baserunning should be an advantage for Bryce, as recently as 2016 he stole 20+ bases. However, that's been put on the back-burner for Bryce as he only stole 4 bases last year. Neither Bryce or Rendon are extremely efficient either so this ends up being a wash.

Now we get to offense. Bryce is simply a better hitter. Bryce's worst years are above average. Rendon's are not. A healthy Rendon on his game is an All-Star hitter. A healthy Bryce on his game is putting up seasons for the ages. Bryce has shown prodigious power and the ability to hit for high average. We can say that Rendon has developed more as a hitter. Rendon's patience has steadily increased while his K-rate dropped a bunch last year. Bryce on the other hand seems to take what he is given, his walk-rate back down last year while his K-Rate sits about where it historically is. This gets to a big question. Have we seen Rendon's best or can he continue to improve? If you think he can get better - that it's injuries that have held him back - then he probably CAN compete with a typical Bryce  season at the plate like last year. That makes this argument make sense even beyond looking at last year.

But now we get to two things that make us question if Rendon can get better. One is the injury history. Neither guy is known to be healthy. Bryce has missed the 30-50 games in three of his six seasons. Rendon missed half a season in 2015 and suffered multiple major injuies in college and the minor leagues. While Rendon has been healthier in the recent past, I have a hard time assuming he'll be healthier than Bryce going forward. If I can't assume that then I can't assume he can catch Bryce at the plate because while a healthy Rendon may catch 2017 Bryce, a healthy Bryce should blow 2017 Bryce out of the water.

The second thing is Rendon's age. Rendon is almost 2 1/2 years older than Bryce. That matters. Nicks and dings in a lifetime of ball add up. Age takes it's general toll as issues are harder to overcome. You lose reaction time, flexibilty, etc. If Rendon were a year younger you might give him that benefit of the doubt but at over 2 years older why would you put your money on Rendon to improve more than the younger Bryce? The 130 more ML games in Bryce's pocket? I suppose. Me I'll go with age.

Where I end up is thinking Rendon will never be the hitter Bryce is, and if Bryce is healthy, which we have to assume here, he is such a transcendent bat that it makes up for Rendon's defensive advantages. As a player the answer remains - sign Bryce

But that is not the only thing that goes into it. A contract is money, money that ownership won't spend elsewhere. If Bryce goes for 30 million a year and Rendon 15 million does that change things? The key is going to be pegging what these guys want and it's hard without seeing next year in action. However, we can make a fair assumption that Bryce will want a record-breaking type deal so let's put it at more than the 13-325 Stanton got. We'll temper our expectations from half a billion, seeing the deadness of this offseason and just say something more simple 10-350.  That's 35 million a year. Rendon on the other hand has to compare himself with the regular market. He will probably get something more than the 3/60 that Carlos Santana got this year. Let's say 5/125. That's 25 million a year but half the time commitment. If those are the contracts out there does that make a difference to you.

To me I'm still going to sign Bryce if you make me choose. The fact I'm getting 26-35 instead of 30-34 matters to me because I'm getting that 26-29 that I'm not getting from Rendon, where I can have pretty good expectations of health and performance (at least as much as I can get from these guys). When you think 10 year deal you often think of the dead end years but a deal like that for Bryce is different because he'll be so young. If you are just afraid of post 35 years, you don't get any.  If Rendon were going to be a bargain that might change my mind but he likely won't be, and that extra 10 million a year - well that's the going rate for a very good reliever but it shouldn't break your team.

This of course, like I said, assumes health in 2018. It assumes Bryce and Rendon both play 145ish games. Rendon would put up a season like last year. Bryce something between last year and his epic one. If the assumptions don't come true than this whole analysis changes but right now I take Bryce.

*Am I the only one that thinks Bryce could be better if he tried?


Anonymous said...

I think Bryce associates being a good defender with putting himself on a position to get more injured. So he does not try as hard as others.

Robot said...


DezoPenguin said...

One additional matter to consider is that the Nationals have both Victor Robles and Juan Soto in the prospect pipeline and Adam Eaton under contract for the relatively long term. While nobody not named Trout can replace peak Harper, we haven't gotten peak Harper with the relentless consistency Trout has delivered.

So, I think in the abstract, you want to give Harper that 10-year extension, because any team is better with Bryce Harper around for the long-term, but if Boras's asking price starts at "ridiculous," it may be better for the team to focus on locking up Rendon.

blovy8 said...

I kind agree with Dezo. If it's either/or you have to go with Rendon, because per year and total years of contract he costs you a lot less, and you have OF depth at the moment. There also could be the future need to spend a lot on pitching if Strasburg opts out. We are making an assumption that Harper can stay healthy 10 years vs. Rendon staying healthy 5. Part of it really depends on when the deal is made too, if this is an extension for Rendon, that's another year of decline you aren't paying for, given his lesser status, what can Boras get? If you don't need to go 10 years for Harper, or there are opt-outs and deferrals as there are sure to be - very complicated. For the franchise, it seems like they could afford to stay competitive around Bryce's salary, but what happens when/if the Mets and Phillies spend like the bigger markets they are? That's a lot of risk with just the one player. On the other hand, Bryce could net a lot of prospects in a future rebuild.

Jay said...

I doubt they sign either bc of Boras. I agree with robot, you try to keep Harper if not both. SPEND ALL THE MONEY! The Lerner family isn't exactly broke. You keep both and build a foundation of born and bred Nats that we watched from the minor leagues all the way to the HOF. Also, Rizzo is the biggest upcoming free agent. If they lose him they are in real trouble.

blovy8 said...

Well, if Harper wanted to sign here, he could, just as Strasburg did. Boras works for him, not the other way around. But yeah, it really doesn't seem likely, unless he gets hurt again, and takes a smaller deal/opt-out deal, etc.

Dmitri Young said...

It'd be awesome if Bryce exceeds his wrc+ from last year. I think the projection systems are only predicting that Trout and Stanton exceed 156. Bryce is predicted around 156 again.

billyhacker said...

What a great topic. While Rendon is amazing, he's difficult to market (see his snub at the All Star games), and I think that will cut into his pay.
I'm skeptical that Harper will take a deal that leaves him back on the market at age 35. I think he'll want a contract through 38 and almost certainly $35/yr, and he will get at least one opt out and might need to be a DH/1st for the last 7 years of his contract. Fangraphs Steamer projects Harper at 5.9 WAR next year. Rendon at 4.4.
Between Harper at 12 years at $35 per or Rendon at 6 years at $25 per, I think Harper would project for more WAR/$ but with a wider range of potential outcomes that I can't stomach. So, sadly, I'd lean toward taking Rendon.

Rob Evans said...

I think the question is moot. The Nats have very little chance at re-signing Bryce. He wants to hit free agency. He's as good as gone after this year.

Josh Higham said...

Bryce's defense is infuriating. He routinely misses the cutoff man and on top of that misses the base he's throwing to. He seems to love playing shallow not he's not a golden retriever type outfielder like Griffey who loves chasing a ball over his head. His foot speed is such that his range should be better, and his arm is good enough that he should hold more runners in check. Instead, he plays average defense with an occasional spectacular throw.

G Cracka X said...

Neither. Sign Rizzo

sirc said...



sirc said...

Brewers aquire Christian Yelich.

In other news Boras calls rebuilding process damaging to the integrity of baseball.

blovy8 said...

Looks like the Marlins did ok in that deal.

Vince Flowder said...

I've always said that teams should get a luxury tax waiver of some sort for homegrown talent. The luxury tax in my opinion should be based solely on free agent acquisitions and not drafted talent that has remained with your team. Why? Because first of all teams should be rewarded for drafting and developing well and able to reward fans by retaining homegrown and thusly popular players. Of course the NATs might be penalized under a new modified luxury tax, but maybe not. Harper, Rendon, Stras and Zim are great talent that you shouldn't get penalized for later in their careers when they become expensive.
I grew up rooting for the A's. A Virginia boy, a child hood acquaintance played catcher, and I was hooked. In later years when Mark McGuire left my attention drifted with him. It's the thing I hate about the NBA. I lived in Memphis for a brief period in 2003-5. They were an exciting team, Paul Gasol, Jason Williams and others, but by 2007 they were all gone.

Paul Hewitt said...

Either the money doesn't matter, or it does. I think it does, so I'm not signing both of them. Harper would be trickier to build a team around, because he'll soak up so much of the payroll. Having an extra $10-15mm a year gets you at least one more star -- the next Murphy, if you're lucky (not another Weiters, hopefully). If the money doesn't matter, the Cubs and Dodgers, and possibly the Angels, Phillies, Giants and Red Sox, will be in a flat out bidding war for him. I think there's a good reason the CBA is working out like it is; clubs are rightly wary of the luxury tax -- it comes directly out of the owners' hides. If the rich clubs blow their wads on Harper, Machado, Kerwhaw and Donaldson, there's not going a huge pool of bidders on Rendon the year after.

So I think the Nats will look at both players as the year develops, make an honest effort to re-sign Harper, and then turn to Rendon if Harper gets his big deal elsewhere.

As an aside, I'd note that trading three of their top four pitching prospects for Eaton decimated an already fading farm system. There some good kids farther down the system, but the stock of major league ready arms is low and even some of the position players you'd hope would be ready are far down in the charts. This is worrisome, because homegrown talent is essential to keeping the window open. Having Bryce on the payroll won't guarantee you playoff contention without a great supporting cast.

BxJaycobb said...

I think the idea that Rendon is going to only get 125m is low. When’s the last time a two time MVP finalist who plays elite defense got that little? If Rendon gets less than 6/150, it’s either because he took some discount or because GMs are obsessed with marketing over actual value. Folks don’t associate Rendon with peak David Wright and Evan Longoria only because he’s quiet. He’s not Josh Donaldson or Machado or Bryant because he has less power. But frankly I suspect that if Rendon played at altitude, he and Nolan Arenado would be the same player. Guy is a top 20 position player in MLB. The problem is I could easily see Rendon having some injury that leads to a total and complete collapse second half of career, while I just don’t see that for Bryce for some reason.

Charlie Potatoe said...

Of course, sign Rendon, arguably the best all-round player on the Team
He is a class act, a pure hitter(Dusty told his Kid to learn to hit by watching him), and a Gold Glove Fielder, who will perform at a high level well into his Thirties.
His only defect is his lack of intensity on occasion.

Bryce is a not so smart, immature, hardhead with real problems with the mechanics of his swing.
These qualities account for his inconsistent hitting and his propensity for injury.
He resembles Pete Reiser in his injury causing recklessness, and his playing career, like Reiser's, may
end prematurely.

Clearly, he is not worth blowing up the budget by paying him the money that he will ask for to stay.
Especially, since doing so will limit the Club's ability to pay to retain players and sign others.

In any case, do not sign him to a long term Contract. Dumb Ballplayers fade as they age
because they don't adjust to change, while smart ones(Worth) do.