Again, although it’s possible that the Washington Nationals may be able to extend both in due course, for the sake of this exercise, we can only choose one to extend. So with that in mind, the extension should go to Bryce Harper, not Anthony Rendon.
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For all of Rendon’s positive on the defensive side of the ball, Harper is quite simply a generational talent with the bat. If you have the chance to lock that kind of player in for 10 years, at that age, you simply have to try and do so.
Rendon will get a lot more money than many assume, and while it will be roughly $10 million less than Harper, that doesn’t get you much extra. Of contracts that were signed last offseason, that would get you, Lance Lynn, or Joakim Soria. That hardly seems worth the downgrade from Harper to Rendon.
The other argument is that without Harper, you would have Adam Eaton ready to step in and the outfield doesn’t lose too much. But by the end of the 2019 season, you could also have top prospect Carter Kieboom, or Luis Garcia set to take over at third when Rendon is a free agent.
While Eaton is a known quantity, and there is some risk around relying on a prospect, Kieboom seems pretty safe, and if you paired him with say veteran Todd Frazier, you’d be in a good spot.
You also have to look at the intangibles side of the equation, and no matter what state the team is in, people will always pay to see Harper. And while he’s not there yet, it’s entirely possible that Harper is at the start of a Hall of Fame path and should he leave and continue to tear it up, he would not go in as a National.
It’s far from a no-brainer in terms of which player the Nats should re-sign, and they would hardly be in a bad spot if they chose Rendon. However, there are so many factors at play that would lean towards Harper being the better choice.
It’s going to be a fascinating offseason for the Washington Nationals this winter. They have a lot of things to figure out, and are bound to make one seismic move no matter how things shake out.