Gerritt Cole will likely earn the richest pitching contract in MLB history this offseason, and another nine-figure deal is in store for World Series champion Anthony Rendon, the top position player on the market. Rendon may not reach the Bryce Harper stratosphere as he enters free agency at 29, though he could sign a shorter deal with a higher average annual value. Regardless, the Texas native will soon be a very rich man, and his eventual team will be receiving one of baseball’s best infielders.
Let’s assess what the market for Rendon could shape up to be.
Dark Horses: Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals
Let’s take a brief look at some potential #MysteryTeams, all of whom (could) sport deep pockets entering free agency. The Angels will chase Cole, and starting pitching is their greatest need in the quest to send Mike Trout to October. It’s doubtful Los Angeles splurges on Rendon if they don’t land an ace, though owner Arte Moreno appears willing to shell out major cash this winter. A Trout, Ohtani, Rendon and Jo Adell core would be enticing.
The Yankees are in a similar market as the Angels, likely willing to chase Gerritt Cole at a high price. Acquiring Rendon further stuffs New York’s infield glut, though letting Didi Gregorius walk does free up a spot. Trading Miguel Andujar would bring a Rendon signing in play to some degree. One final dark horse? The Cardinals may need a power punch if Marcell Ozuna lands elsewhere. It’s doubtful they’ll produce a large enough offer though.
5. Philadelphia Phillies
We know the Phillies aren’t afraid of spending “stupid money,” and the franchise flirted with a Manny Machado signing last winter. Rendon has similar appeal. Maikel Franco will never be the third baseman of the future, and top prospect Alec Bohm is still years from the majors. The positional void is clear. Rendon would fit right in with walk-friendly sluggers Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, creating a trio that will wear out pitchers on a nightly basis. Philadelphia may be desperate to make a splash after 2019’s fourth-place finish.
4. Chicago White Sox
Speaking of former Machado suitors, the White Sox could be in line to chase another marquee free agent this winter. Chicago won just 72 games last season, but their ever-ascending core and weak division may make 2020 ripe for the franchise’s first division title since 2008. Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson made a major leap last season. Eloy Jimenez could hit 40 homers in his sophomore campaign after bashing 31 in 2019. A strong rookie year from Luis Robert could push the White Sox over .500. Adding Rendon may send them to the top of the AL Central.
Rendon’s age may preclude the White Sox from jumping at the opportunity. He’s two years older than Machado, set to turn 30 midway through the 2020 season. Chicago’s best window for contention won’t arrive for another season or two. Rendon could be beginning his decline as the White Sox attempt to rise as an American League power, and the timelines may not match up for a deal to be struck.
3. Washington Nationals
The soft-spoken Rendon could certainly eschew the free agency process and stick with the franchise that drafted him No. 6 overall in 2011. Washington has money to spend after letting Bryce Harper walk; even more so if Stephen Strasburg leaves. There’s no true rationale for Washington not to chase Rendon if the price tag remains reasonable.
The Nationals will continue to have a strong core heading into the next decade, with Trea Turner, Juan Soto and Max Scherzer armed to anchor the franchise following the organization’s first World Series. In a crowded and talented NL East, Washington needs to keep their lineup intact to stay among the NL's top World Series contenders.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
In the Andrew Friedman Era, the Dodgers have largely steered clear of major free agent commitments. Will anything change this winter? Cole will likely demand too many years for the Dodgers’ comfort, but Rendon could be a perfect fit at a shorter deal at an all-time high average annual value. This is the kind of deal L.A. reportedly tried to pursue with Bryce Harper.
Justin Turner will be 35 by opening day, and he could move forward as a platoon option at first base. Los Angeles’ championship window isn’t closing anytime soon, though the franchise is likely desperate to bring home a World Series championship after seven straight NL West titles. Rendon is a steady superstar. The Dodgers shouldn’t hesitate to dive into the bidding.
1. Texas Rangers
Rendon grew up in Houston, but the cross-state Rangers are the top contender to land the premier position player on the market. The Rangers finished 2019 No. 20 in payroll, and they appear to have plenty of capital to spend as they move into their new (mercifully roofed) ballpark.
The baseball fit aligns along with the economics. Third base remains a significant hole in Texas’ infield, and Rendon’s on-base prowess would stabilize one of baseball’s most free-swinging lineups. The Rangers’ franchise success has always been on the strength of its lineup. The Dallas summers wear on starting pitching more than any location outside Colorado. Texas’ path back to AL West contention is through an imposing offensive attack, and adding Rendon would be a significant step in the right direction.