Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported Friday the Phillies have made Rendon their "No. 1 target" despite the knowledge their payroll would likely go over the $208 million luxury-tax threshold to sign him.
Philly views Josh Donaldson, who was named the 2019 National League Comeback Player of the Year for hitting 37 home runs with the Atlanta Braves, as its backup plan on the open market, per Nightengale.
Rendon is the top hitter available after a monster 2019 campaign. He posted a 1.010 OPS, which ranked sixth in MLB, to go along with 34 home runs in 146 games for the Nats. He added three postseason homers to help Washington win the World Series.
The Phillies, who made a major splash in free agency last year highlighted by the addition of outfielder Bryce Harper, already signed starting pitcher Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract this offseason.
They are aiming to end a playoff drought that extends back to 2012. There was a steady decline after winning a championship in 2008 as they lost in the 2009 World Series, 2010 NLCS and 2011 NLDS before the eight straight playoff-less seasons.
Now it sounds like ownership is willing to go over the luxury-tax threshold to complete the turnaround.
Philadelphia finished in fourth place in the NL East during the 2019 campaign. They ended 16 games behind the division-champion Atlanta Braves and 12 off the pace of the wild-card and eventual title-winning Nats.
Rendon would represent a significant upgrade over Scott Kingery, the team's current projected starter at third, and slot in alongside Harper, catcher J.T. Realmuto and first baseman Rhys Hoskins to give the club one of the most dangerous middle of the orders in MLB.
In addition, signing a player of the 2019 All-Star's caliber while also taking him away from an NL East rival could help shift the balance of power in the division.
No signing should be considered imminent, however, as Nightengale noted the Phillies haven't held a face-to-face discussion with Rendon yet ahead of next week's winter meetings.