Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper domino emphasizes Anthony Rendon

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 28: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals celebrates with Anthony Rendon #6 after hitting a home run in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Nationals Park on August 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 28: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals celebrates with Anthony Rendon #6 after hitting a home run in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Nationals Park on August 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /

With Bryce Harper now a free agent, signing Anthony Rendon to a long-term extension could actually be more beneficial to the Washington Nationals.

Everyone knows that Scott Boras has had his eyes set on the 2018 offseason since Bryce Harper was drafted in 2010. But for the Washington Nationals, the weight of being the cornerstone of the organization moving forward could fall on Anthony Rendon.

Boras is known for having binders that showcase the best of his clients. In the near future, one of those binders could possibly convince an owner or general manager to reset the free agent market for years to come.

The sweepstakes for Harper have been the talk of MLB circles for well over a year now. There is a case to be made that agreeing to an extension with Rendon could have a better impact on the field and for the organization as a whole.

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The case is two-fold. First off, any agreement made between Boras and Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo is likely to restrain the organization financially for years to come and it is still yet to be seen whether Boras is willing to defer any of Harper’s contract.

But also, an extension for Rendon puts the Nationals in a better position to win both in short-term and long-term perspectives. District on Deck Site Expert Blake Finney actually explored this possibility as a part of his FanSided GM Simulation series with Harper leaving and Rendon staying long-term.

Mike Rizzo asserted last week to Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post that the Nationals do not see their situation as a Harper or Rendon choice. Instead, he believes the club has the ability to re-sign both of the former Silver Sluggers to long-term deals should he need to.

Realistically, Harper would have to accept a deal that surely is not in line with Boras’ in the $400 million to $500 million aspirations that he has for his star client.

If Harper agrees to a deal with another team for the rumored $400 million or $500 million that he is seeking, the Nationals would be then left searching for a new face of the franchise. They should look no further than their starting third baseman.

The truest benefit of choosing Rendon over Harper has to do with the club’s ability to address other needs by not handcuffing themselves to Harper for $400M+ over 8-10 years. Additionally, though, Rendon has quietly been one of the Nats most consistent players over the last three seasons. Let’s dive into the last three campaigns and take a look at the Harper vs. Rendon comparison.

Harper is two years younger at 26 years old than Rendon who is 28, but the Harper contract would likely total somewhere around 10 years. Comparatively, it could be possible the Nats get a bargain for Rendon at 7 years, compared to what they would have to give Harper. Both contracts would then expire when each player in their mid-30s.

Since 2016, Rendon has played in more games and some of the offensive numbers lean in favor of him as well. He led the league in doubles this past season and has had 197 extra base hits since 2016 while Harper, on the other hand, has just 175.

It should be mentioned that this comparison began after Harper’s MVP season of 2015 and surely that would be Boras’ argument as well. But the outfielder has had three full seasons to replicate his MVP performance of a few years ago and has underperformed now for the 417 games since.

In that time, Rendon has been accumulating similar offensive numbers while also being one of the best defensive third basemen in the game, though often overshadowed by Nolan Arenado. In each of the last three seasons, Rendon has led the National League in Fielding Percentage by a third baseman.

Meanwhile, Harper hasn’t registered in the top ten for assists as an OF since 2014. There are even rumors that some potential suitors are interested in moving Harper to first base to limit the wear and tear on his body, but behind closed doors, it can also be safe to assume that they want to move him to 1st because he’s already started to decline as an outfielder.

With glaring needs in the back end of the rotation, a relative question mark at second base, and a need behind the plate, even after signing Kurt Suzuki last Monday, the safer bet for the Nationals might be to forgo signing Harper to a record-setting deal.

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Anthony Rendon is the safer bet for around $25 million per season over the next five to seven years and will allow the Washington Nationals to address other needs. The team may even end up getting similar and more consistent production from him compared to Bryce Harper.