Owner Mark Lerner: Nationals Have To Choose Signing Anthony Rendon Or Stephen Strasburg In Free Agency
Washington Nationals teammates Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg during a 2019 World Series game
Jonathan Newton /The Washington Post

Despite an ownership group with deep pockets, the Washington Nationals have developed a reputation of being somewhat conservative financially. That seemingly has worked against them in recent years, specifically in pursuits of Kenley Jansen and Bryce Harper.

In both cases the Nationals’ contract offers reportedly included deferred money. That held true even when Washington managed to sign Max Scherzer to a seven-year contract in 2015. Now the Nationals face the difficulty of Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg being coveted free agents.

Of the two, Strasburg is largely considered the more likely to re-sign. Nevertheless, he and Rendon have fielded plenty of interest from other clubs — and in some cases the same team — such as the Los Angeles Dodgers being tied to both players.

As for the prospects of the Nationals re-signing Rendon and Strasburg, principal owner Mark Lerner cautioned it’s an unlikely scenario, according to NBC Sports Washington:

“We really can only afford to have one of those two guys,” Lerner told Donald Dell in an exclusive interview. “They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

“We’re pursuing them, we’re pursuing other free agents in case they decided to go elsewhere,” Lerner said in the interview with Dell. “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.”

Strasburg became a free agent this winter by opting out of the remaining four years and $100 million that were on his contract. At 31 years old and fresh off a dominant showing in October, the World Series MVP is in position to sign a final long-term deal of his career.

Meanwhile, Rendon, 29, reportedly is open to sacrificing length on a contract while still receiving a substantial annual salary. That figures to bode well for the Dodgers, who have been cautious in free agency under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.

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