Nationals Baseball: What's a Rendon Worth?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What's a Rendon Worth?

Yesterday the Astros signed Alex Bregman to an extension and Mike Trout signed THE extension, which as possibly the greatest baseball player ever*

What this leads to is the discussion of extensions for other young stars and youngish stars heading toward FA.  You hear Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge and for the Nats, you hear Anthony Rendon's name.  In fact we talked about this recently, though before Arenado's deal was made. A lot of people think that there was kind of a choice between Bryce and Rendon. That if the Nats spend money on the former they'd let the latter walk because maybe they couldn't afford it or maybe they just didn't want to commit too much money in payroll or whatever.  But Bryce is gone now so the focus can solely be on Tony.  What is he worth and what are the Nats going to give him?

Let's focus on the first for a second. Todd Dybas for NBC Sports Washington (where are the Nats WaPo beats on this? - turnover will get ya!) talked to Rendon about this.  Since Rendon is a pretty candid guy he gave a fair statement of how things are going. They had an offer out there, wasn't what Rendon wanted, that's about it.

His phrasing makes me think he's a little surprised there hasn't been more back and forth after the rejection of whatever the offer was. But also everything else he's ever said makes me think that's not a bother to him. I mean, I think it's rarely a bother to most guys. Either you get it's just business or you get over a little personal animosity when the big check is presented to you. But really for Rendon I think he doesn't care too much about the journey.  He probably has a value he thinks he's worth, a time frame he thinks he should get it by, and if the Nats meet that - great! If not he'll go on the market. I think his comments are less "if the Nats don't care about me I'll walk!" and more "if the Nats don't care about me, that's fine." They get to the same place but without the animosity.

What is the value? Well let's look at recent FA extensions and contracts
Manny Machado** - 10/300,  to be 26, 130+ OPS+, 6+ WAR player 3 of last 4 years
Alex Bregman - 6/100, to be 24, 137+ OPS+, 5+ WAR ave player to start career, bought out 4 controlled years
Nolan Arenado - 8/260, to be 28, 130 OPS+, High 5 WAR player past 3 years (GG defense), bought out one controlled year
Josh Donaldson - 1/23, to be 33, 150 OPS+ 3 of last 4 years, though 120 in injured part time last year, 5+ WAR player when healthy with potential for elite (7+)
Mike Moustakas - Last year - 1/5.5, to be 29, 115+ OPS player, 2ish WAR player. This year 1/10 to be 30, confirmation of rough above stats last year.

Plug in Rendon's numbers after this year- to be 30, 135+ OPS player, 6+ WAR player.

He doesn't compare to Machado (4 years younger at estimated signing) or Bregman (6 with 4 years of control bought out). Nor does he compare well to Donaldson (3 years older) or Moustakas (just not as good).  His closest comparison is Arenado but as people note Arenado is a couple years younger and more durable and GG D makes him slightly more a player who could provide value if bat slumps (not that Rendon is a slouch here).  I've said before I like Rendon better but let's for argument sake go with common standing. Rendon is not as good as Arenado, but only a little.

So less than 8/260.   I think something you see here is a common thread on long term deals to end at 35 at the latest.  Let's make that the goal and give Rendon 6 years. The terms for Machado and Arenado give you the idea of what these kinds of years are valued at (30+ million but depreciation puts long contracts in 30 mill range). Donaldson's deal confirms that - 23 million for a hopeful similar year. You'd have to then put a Rendon deal center at around 6/150. It could be as "little" as 5/125 or as much as 6/180.  For an extension buying out this year (18.8 mill) look for something between 6/120+ and 7/175+.

That's a pretty wide gap and I'm going to go out on a limb that the Nats offer, as it tends to be, was the bottom of the market. so probably something a little more $ than 6/120.  Like 6/150 with money deferred . That pays him 25 million a year, basically making him the 3rd highest paid 3rd baseman behind Arenado and Machado, while buying out his last year of control. I'd expect Rendon's contract demands to be more toward the high end. Probably asking for 7/200 ish right now.

Of course this is just spitballying but that's kind of where I'm landing on what Rendon is looking at. 7/200 to get it done this year, 6/180 next year if they want to wait it out and see what he does. If he gets it he gets it. If not, no hard feelings, see you around.

The question is - is he worth it and what do the Lerners think. To the former, I answered in the previous column - yes, but it's a health gamble. To the latter - who knows.

Would I do 7/200 right now? Yes.

*It's true! At this point in his career he is completely on track for it. You can't say that for Bryce, a likely HoF, or for Betts, a comparative late bloomer, or Judge, a late starter in general. I'm not being crazy calling Trout this. 

** He's a 3rd baseman for me and on the depth chart


BxJaycobb said...

This was always the problem for me with the folks on this and other blogs who were like “I would prefer we spend money on Rendon than Bryce!” It...doesn’t work like that. You can’t select one. If you don’t sign Bryce you’re entertaining the chance of “we end up with neither”. And right now I think it’s 50/50 we keep him, probably a bit more likely he leaves—because (1) he’s so close and that’s what happens to people who are close to FA. (Shout out to the Lerners who are the only owners who wait this long to extend people. Extend Soto and Turner, *now*, for example. Hell i would buy out Robles arb years for a couple added years of control). (2) they probably think they have a replacement for Rendon in Kieboom and, and Garcia can play 2B. Because it’s that easy! And (3) it’s a bad combination in terms of Rendon having all the leverage and being THE BEST PLAYER EASILY on the 2020 market, the Nats NEEDING to sign him, Arenado’s deal—which is warped by Colorado a bit, and then the fact that Rendon is not super durable....not like Arenado, at least. If I *had to bet money, I would say he tests the market. Why wouldn’t he, unless Nats bowl him over?

JWLumley said...

I think Nats fans--in general--weren't terribly worried about Harper walking, however, I think the case would be much, much different if they let Rendon walk. That's partly due to Harper leaving, but also because Harper's contract was based on promise, not necessarily production, while Rendon has done nothing but produce.

Personally, I think his swing and the mechanics behind it will age well, like Julio Franco well. The guy barrels the ball up and doesn't have a hole in his swing. Even if the power goes, I'd bet Rendon could still hit .250 in the big leagues at 45 if he stays in shape. The Nats really need to get this deal done.

Ole PBN said...

Absolutely agree JW. For me, its his swing that has me confident in long-term success, where I see Bryce turning more into a Zimmerman (health issues aside). Just too many holes in Bryce's swing. His pitch recognition will get him walks, his swing power will still muscle balls out of the park, but Rendon barrels up balls with much more regularity - as does Soto. Murphy 2.0 was the same way.

However, if Garcia turns out to be what scouts project though, Rendon may not be missed as much as people think. Though I'll admit this is down-the-road thinking and shouldn't dictate negotiations (I hope). But if these guys pan out, we'll have Robles, Soto, Kieboom and Garcia for a number of years - a ha! Another "window!" I think we've done well developing position players, but I don't see a promising SP in our system. That's troubling.

Ole PBN said...

Now that I'm really thinking about this, my guess is Rendon doesn't come back, unless: we offer him the most money, with minimal deferrals (i.e. don't expect to offer a Bryce type deal with deferrals until he's 70 and then throw up your hands "we tried?!" when Rendon turns that down). I'm with Bx on this, interesting how the Lerners wait so long to extend some of their players. Maybe they are spooked by deals like this because of Zimmerman, but then whats with all the deferred money for everyone we go after, or Strasburg (injury risk)? I don't get it.

Here's something to remember: Rendon may have little-to-no intention of coming back. He's saying all the things Nats fans want to hear, but so did Bryce. So would any player who doesn't want his home fans to boo him. But I think the impact of Arenado off the board, Trout off the board... this puts Rendon as the #1 prize next offseason. He's going to cash in and if I were his agent, I wouldn't touch a Nats extension offer unless it GREATLY exceeds what I value myself to be. Nats would really have to throw a crazy contract out there. One that will make him sign it on the spot (chances of that are unlikely).

There were reasons that I was okay with Bryce walking during this time last year. We went over these ad nauseam. Rendon though, it just his durability (which I think he has done a good job of making that a less of a concern - at least more that Bryce had). Aside from that, I like every part about his game. Please don't butcher this Nats.

SM said...

I think "No hard feelings, see you around" is about right. I also think @Ole PBN may be on to something about Zimmerman's contract giving the Lerners pause.

Beyond that, though, it's diverting to speculate on which teams would go hard after Rendon if (when?) he declares free agency.

Depending on how the Donaldson experiment goes, Atlanta might be a fitting landing spot. The Mets could use someone to replace an aging Jed Lowrie. Then again, the stupid-money laden Phillies may give up on Maikel Franco and get themselves a real professional third baseman.

Yes, you could play this fantasy game all day long (the Dodgers need a Justin Turner replacement soon, for example, etc., etc.) The thing is, though, that the NL East appears it will be a nasty dogfight for the foreseeable future. And three of the Nats' rivals could sure use a terrific third baseman.

BxJaycobb said...

I really don’t think a fundamentally sound swing/bat to ball contact is the key to whether somebody ages well. I actually wouldn’t bet on Rendon being that great an “older player” because he gets a lot of his value from fielding and base running and he doesn’t have a ton of power. Once he’s a bit slower/fielding declines (it already is declining if you believe last year’s fielding metrics) you’ll have a guy who gets on base and hits a lot of doubles, and hope he doesn’t lose bat speed....which is still a good player, but not an elite one. Rendon is an elite player because of his all around game and athleticism....he’s not going to be a plus defender and baserunner for most of his FA contract. I would be surprised if his best years aren’t behind him and right now. (This was always a big part of the Harper argument....he has like 5 more peak seasons left. Rendon probably has 2.)

BxJaycobb said...

To be clear I still hope they sign him. But if he ends up being 5 mil AAV more per year than Bryce...this is why I preferred they choose Harper. Because he’s not more expensive, at least on a per year basis...he’s less expensive...a 30 AAV contract for Rendon will be brutal for the cap.

Jay said...

The impression I have always gotten is that Rendon prefers to stay. The problem is the Lerners sometimes can't get out of their own way. Don't get me wrong, they are not cheap. However, they did offer Bud Black a 1 year contract with a 2 one year team options to manage the Nats. They did offer Harper 1/3 of his contract deferred. They did trade guys away last year but never got under the luxury tax. Sometimes the Lerners act like they are the smartest people in the room and seem confused when people don't just go along with whatever they want to do (DC paying for adding a roof to the stadium is an example). It would be incredibly disappointing to see them lose Rendon. It is for this sole reason that I think they sign him and bring him back.

JWLumley said...

@Bx Yes, he'll lose value because he's so good all around, but defensive decline is easier to project. The bat to ball and simplified swing are indicative of someone who can hit and will continue to hit even with diminished power and bat speed. As for putting stock in defensive metrics, no thank you, putting stock in a single season of defensive metrics, no f'n way.

DezoPenguin said...

@JW: I totally agree. The hype around Harper was always based on his amazing start (19 years old and already above average! 20 and already a star!) and his 2015 season where he produced like Trout for one year (albeit with bad defense) and fulfilled all the promise. Except that instead of an East Coast Trout (Bryce Cod?) instead came injuries. And slumps. And bad-to-execrable defense. And what was left was a star *hitter* plus the hope for more since he was just 26, but not a transcendent legend.

Rendon, meanwhile, puts up six WAR a year whenever he isn't hurt. He's basically an across-the-bay version of Machado that doesn't try to spike an opponent in passing every so often or demand to be a shortstop for a year. He's Arenado except on a team that has other, more noticeable stars.

Like Harper, I'd give him 6/180 (starting next year) or 7/200 (buying out this year) right now, no questions asked. Then you only need one of Kieboom or Garcia to work out to plug 2B and you have all the tricky parts of your infield worked out for half a decade. And if Kieboom and Garcia BOTH work out, then Rendon moves over to 1B if his defense starts to decline with age.

blovy8 said...

I think 30 million a year probably isn’t happening, but I thought that about Arenado too. Rizzo is under less pressure from the Lerners than he was to sign Harper, and is unlikely to pay more than market rate to keep Rendon like I think the Rockies did with Arenado. If Trout can give the Angels a seeming discount like his recent deal, it's not wrong for the Nats to start out negotiations at a certain under-market point, but its way late to think a deal will happen regardless of what they say. A real deal would have happened a year ago if they were serious. There might be easier ways to spread around 25 million, or not have to use all of it, especially if they go over the CBT threshold again this season. As fans, we hate losing guys like this, but we should admit that the few players that have been developed in the system who were valuable enough to have been possible extension candidates like Zimmerman, Zimmermann, Desmond, Strasburg, and Ramos have not been big factors. I believe at the time, Zim gave them a discount, and even that hasn’t been worth it. Stras still can live up to his deal, but again, wasn’t the consensus that he left money on the table? I doubt anyone would say that now and his opt outs seem safe. Everyone says the right things, and as a fan I can’t help hoping Rendon signs, but odds are it’s another bullet they dodge. Given the wacky free agent market, who can say where Rendon would go? I don’t know anyone who picked the Padres to sign Machado. But Rendon is supposed to be a guy who doesn’t care about the money, and wants to play on his own terms. Who the hell knows what THOSE are?

sirc said...

I wish you guys would stop using the $100 million deferred until Bryce is 65 line as Fact. It came from Bryce and Boras. They only fed it to the press after Bryce signed with the Phillies.

It isn't a fact. It's reported and unconfirmed. It might be true. But other reporters have claimed that it isn't true.

Jay said...

I agree. The idea of having the infield worked out and possibly 2/3 of the outfield as well for the next 5 years is great. The other thing that has been bothering me is that next year the Nats will have low budget or team friendly contracts at every position except pitcher, 3rd base (hopefully if Rendon stays) and possibly 1st base. Carter Kieboom 2b, Trea Turner SS, Juan Soto LF, Victor Robles CF, Adam Eaton (team friendly deal) RF, Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki at C (both team friendly deals). If you can't afford Rendon now, then who can you ever afford. Granted they're paying Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin big money, but there are zero Nats pitching prospects on the horizon. That is not likely to change anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

sirc I think the point of that is to say if we offer a ton of deferred money to Rendon, he is not likely to take it. Scherzer did, many others have not. Limiting our discussion only to factual statements and excluding speculation/opinion would make this a blog very boring place to be.

BxJaycobb said...

@Jay I agree with you, and not being able to afford Rendon is nuts. But it should be pointed out that the Nats have EASILY the most expensive rotation in baseball. Like...EASILY. (Cubs i believe are probably second). Almost half our payroll is in 3 SPs. But that should give us the room to sign at least one expensive position player. And think about it....a Rendon deal will be coming off the books by the time the Soto/Robles/Kieboom class of players are hitting free agency. One thing to keep in mind is I GUESS it’s possible it could affect whether we can afford Trea, who will be very expensive (offer him 2 extra years for 35 mil now!), although I believe Scherzer will be nearing the end of his deal by then.

Josh Higham said...

Ronit coming to the comments with the content I love!

blovy8 said...

The Traveling Notary sounds like a bad boomer cover band made up of office drudges playing Dylan, Harrison, Petty, Orbison, and ELO covers. Hmm, maybe that wouldn't be that terrible.

Jay said...

Reasons you don't hang your hat on prospects - especially pitching prospects: Jesus Luzardo being shut down for a month or two with a bum shoulder. Odds are he will be fine long term. However, shoulder injuries are a much bigger deal with a 50-50 recovery if it's like a labrum tear.

On a side note. Can the Nats just sign Kimbrel please? He is light years better than any 3rd or 5th round pick they may make in the draft.

Robot said...

Been in serious need of a traveling notary, but this is the only website I know how to use. Thanks, Ronit!

Johnny Callison said...

Off Topic, but how has Dozier looked. BA looks bad, OPS okay. 3 HRs. But in general...does he look like he's moving better than last year with the knee thing? Is the power still there? The defense? Will the Nats be okay with him at 2B?

billyhacker said...

Will they go over the luxury tax if they sign an extension now, with the higher AAV? Seems like they can pay Rendon more at lower cost if they wait to the end of the year. Not a suggestion - just wondering what they are thinking. While I like Rendon at 6/180 after this contract, there's a discount to the team when they tear up an existing contract year. I guess that's how we get to 7/200.

DezoPenguin said...

@billyhacker: Depends on how it's structured. If the extension doesn't buy out the present year of his contract, it doesn't affect the AAV for this year. Or they could include that year if for some reason they wanted to do so, but that seems unlikely with the narrow cap room window. (Like, Sale's extension with the Red Sox just signed today doesn't affect the current AAV.)

BxJaycobb said...

@Jay: re Luzardo, true. Look at some of the young Braves pitchers. But as always, when you have enough, some pan out (I predict Reynaldo Lopez becomes a borderline ace this year).
@All. I have to confess. And I’ve been pushing for signing Rendon. A 6/180 or 7/210 deal for Rendon....that sure seems like a lot both in years and money for his age. You’re paying a guy 30 million a year for mostly post-peak years (it’s rare ages 29-35 are close to as good as 25-29) when he likely won’t be an elite defender/baserunner anymore and has never been a truly super-elite, MVP level monster hitter due to good not great power. He’s very good at everything. The trouble is that even if you continue to hit at a .850-900 OPS level (not a given), you’re gonna lose half of the all around game. Look at a guy like Dozier, and how instantly you can go from a 6 WAR/Rendon level player to a “we hope he’s a 3 WAR player” when you’re on wrong side of 30. Look at Zim and David Wright and even Donaldson (for third basemen). I just think 30+ AAV for a bunch of years after age 30 is a no-no unless you’re talking about Trout/Betts/Lindor level beasts. There are exceptions like Adrian Beltre. I think you have to sign him to take advantage of Max+Stras+ Corbin window with the young OF. But just an idea: at this point, with how competitive the division is, there’s an argument you can make in favor of being aggressive with extending Trea, Soto, even Robles if he looks good this year...letting Rendon walk, and sort of rebuilding on the fly, investing the saved dollars from not signing rendon/Bryce in said extensions of younger players and more pitching from outside org. And hope Kieboom and Garcia help plug infield holes. This approach would probably cost u a year of contention before Kieboom/Garcia arrive and are productive starters and while Soto and Robles hopefully go from productive to stars/superstars (but again, this is not ideal if you figure u have max 2-3 years of Max Corbin and Stras all near peak, so I don’t know the answer. I guess all I know for sure is that given how annoying Lerners can be, and how crappy we’ve been about investing in bullpen and pitching depth, I just don’t love 30 AAV, 6-7 years to a guy who is probably about to enter the downslope of his overall athleticism. I really don’t. It’s why I thought having Bryce’s 5 year peak lined up with our roster better, even if it meant we’d be saddled with a bunch of lesser years on back end

Anonymous said...

Odd, isn't it?

The likelier Bryce wasn't going to re-sign, the more frequent the posts on this blog arguing that he wasn't really that good anyway. You know: Terrible defender; never hit 50 HRs; prima donna-ish; not a clubhouse leader; won only one MVP; possibly injury-prone; never led the Nats to a World Series; etc., etc.

By the time he signed with the Phillies, the consensus was he was a liability, and that the Nats were a better team without him.

Now that Rendon ponders the prospect of free agency, the trend is beginning again, this time about Rendon: Not a real power hitter; only one gold glove; declining defence, and so on. When (if)he signs elsewhere, we'll be reading about how the Nats are a better team without him.

BxJaycobb said...

@Anon....Not really. If you read what i literally *just said, I thought not signing Harper was a mistake, and still think not signing Harper was a mistake, and had been maintaining that they sign him instead of Rendon all of last year, if they had to pick between them—- the important factor being age. It’s the same opinion. They’re both great players and have produced roughly the same value in WAR over their careers....the difference being Harper still has 5 prime years left and Rendon probably has 1 or 2. Thus my opinion (which hasn’t changed). idea what you’re talking about if it’s referring to the above post.

SuburbanSteve said...

I have to agree with Bx...I think the commenters on this blog are mostly level headed automatons or feelin-it fans. And my experience here has been that they tend to look at both sides of a player. I thought Bryce could be/will be great. But he is not a good OF-er, and he may grow into a better clubhouse leader - most people hope - but his "Brand" and manner tend to work against that and can grate on many guys in a clubhouse. He hustles, until he doesn't. Same thing with Rendon. And, everyone is entitled to their opnion, and especially when they disagree and are going to stats and stuff, that's where reading the posts and comments are super fun!