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Nationals' Mark Lerner: Team Can't Afford Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2019

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 29:  Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals reacts against the Houston Astros during the fourth inning in Game Six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The defending champions apparently won't be getting the band back together. 

"We can really only afford to have one of those two guys," Washington Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said of free agents Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon in an interview with Donald Dell (h/t Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington.

"They're huge numbers," he continued. "We already have a really large payroll to begin with."

As Dybas pointed out, there could be an element of negotiating in play since it would take away some of the team's leverage to simply come out and say it was going to pay whatever necessary to keep the two stars.

"We’re pursuing them, we’re pursuing other free agents in case they decided to go elsewhere," he added. "Again, it’s not up to us. We can give them a great offer—which we’ve done to both of those players. They’re great people. We’d be delighted if they stay. But it’s not up to us, it’s up to them. That’s why they call it free agency."

That puts the onus on the players, but the suggestion the Nationals can't afford both implies they could get bigger deals elsewhere.

Dybas also noted Washington has moved toward getting under the competitive balance tax in 2019 by renegotiating with Yan Gomes and reworking Ryan Zimmerman's deal. Signing both Strasburg and Rendon to monster deals would undercut those efforts.

Whichever team signs them will land two of the best players on the market.

Strasburg is a three-time All-Star who finished the regular season with a 3.32 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 251 strikeouts in 209 innings. He was brilliant in the playoffs with a 1.98 ERA and 0.94 WHIP to go along with his World Series MVP.

The right-hander has been one of the faces of the Nationals franchise since his Major League debut in 2010, but that could change this offseason.

As for Rendon, he is a two-time Silver Slugger, just 29 years old and coming off his first career All-Star season when he slashed .319/.412/.598 with 34 home runs and 126 RBI.