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Report: Nationals 'More Confident' Stephen Strasburg Will Return over Rendon

Megan ArmstrongAnalyst IIIDecember 8, 2019

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg throws during the first inning of Game 3 of the baseball National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The Washington Nationals have moved on from celebrating their 2019 World Series championship to navigating a tricky free-agent landscape.

The Nats are at risk of losing both starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg, the World Series MVP, and All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon.

However, according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, Washington is "more confident" in bringing back Strasburg than Rendon. "Doesn't mean that's how it plays out but that's the way they seem to feel," Heyman added.

Rendon and Strasburg declined the Nationals' qualifying offers in mid-November to become free agents.

Heyman relayed a similar sentiment after the New York Yankees met with Strasburg earlier this week:

Jon Heyman @JonHeyman

Yanks enjoyed their meeting with Strasburg but still would be surprised if he left the Nats. Washington, too, has seemed more confident in Strasburg than Rendon

"We really can only afford to have one of those two guys," Nats owner Mark Lerner told NBC Sports Washington (h/t ESPN) on Dec. 5. "They're huge numbers. We already have a large payroll to begin with."

Lerner added: "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."

On Nov. 3, Strasburg opted out of the $100 million remaining on the seven-year extension he signed in 2016. That gave Washington some idea of what the three-time All-Star may cost, which will still almost assuredly be less than Rendon.

Strasburg has been in D.C. since the Nationals selected him first overall in the 2009 MLB draft. En route to becoming the first player in league history to have a 5-0 postseason record, the 31-year-old right-hander notched a career-high 18 wins in the regular season—a mark that also led the National League.

Rendon was just as impressive. The 29-year-old led MLB with 126 RBI and led the NL with 44 doubles. His 34 home runs were the most he has hit in a single season since debuting for the Nats in 2013. He did all of that on a career-best .319/.412/.598 slash line.

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal wrote of Rendon's expected price tag earlier Sunday:

"Rendon has spoken of retiring at 35, but Boras is asking for seven-year proposals that would take the third baseman through his age 36 season, according to officials with two of his suitors. As I wrote earlier this week, Rendon almost certainly will want to top the guarantee Nolan Arenado landed in his extension with the Rockies without the benefit of free agency—$234 million."

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported Saturday that the Texas Rangers' focus is "squarely on Rendon for the time being." Other potential suitors that have been linked to Rendon are the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies, per Heyman and USA Today's Bob Nightengale, respectively.