Major League Baseball announced the winners of the “primary” round of All-Star Game balloting, narrowing down each position to the top three vote-getters, a new wrinkle devised this year to drum up more interest in the selection of starters for the midsummer classic.
Anthony Rendon was not among the top three at third base in the National League, with those honors going to Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant and Josh Donaldson, two former MVPs and a perennial top-5 MVP finisher. Rendon placed fifth at third base, despite being arguably the third best hitter at any position in the NL:
Best hitters in the National League
But this is not new for Rendon, the quietly excellent third baseman for the Washington Nationals who should be used to going relatively unnoticed by now.
Rendon has never been an All-Star despite putting up four seasons of at least 3.9 Wins Above Replacement prior to 2019. This year Rendon is at 2.6 WAR, on pace for 5.7, well above his average of 4.2 WAR over the previous five seasons.
Since the start of 2016, Rendon ranks 13th in Wins Above Replacement (16.7) in the majors. Among the 22 players with at least 15 WAR during that time, only Rendon and Matt Chapman haven’t made an All-Star team.
It’s understandable why Rendon has flown under the recognition radar. For most of his career he has been on a team with two former first overall draft picks — Bryce Harper (2009) and Stephen Strasburg (2010) — while Rendon was only the sixth overall pick a year later. The Nationals also boast a three-time Cy Young Award winner in Max Scherzer, so with all that star power it’s easy for someone like Rendon to go unnoticed.
Also the Nationals have been terrible disappointments for two seasons running. A preseason favorite in 2018, Washington stumbled to a pitiful 82-win campaign. This year the expectations were to at least contend, but even that has been beyond the grasp of the Nationals, who enter the weekend under .500 at 36-38.
When most folks think baseball in the nation’s capital, a question like “Why are the Nationals such underachievers?” overshadows focusing on something actually good in Washington.
Rendon will get his due, eventually.
He might make the NL All-Star team as a reserve, which would be a first for the 29-year-old.
He might be traded to a contender, which would give Rendon another chance at a national stage. He made the postseason three times with Washington, but first-round exits in 2014, 2016 and 2017 limited his exposure, as did Rendon hitting .232/.317/.357 in his 14 playoff games.
Rendon could very well make it to October this season with the Nationals, who despite the poor start are still just 3½ games out of a Wild Card spot.
Whether Washington views itself as a contender is key here, since they would never trade Rendon if they thought they still had playoff hopes. But the third baseman will be a free agent after this season, and if made available will be the best bat on the trade market. It shouldn’t be hard for the Nationals, if they do decide to trade Rendon, to receive enough of a prospect haul to outweigh the potential draft pick gain they would get in 2020 should he leave as a free agent.
This winter might have to be when Rendon finally gets his due. After would-be free agents Arenado — eight years, $260 million — and Paul Goldschmidt — five years, $130 million — signed contract extensions over the offseason, that clears the way for Rendon as the premiere free agent position player on the market this coming winter.
The Nationals could take care of that before then if they were so inclined, and ink Rendon to a contract extension during this season. During a radio interview in late May, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo called Rendon “a guy that we drafted, developed, signed, and watched turn into a star in front of our eyes. He’s a guy that we would like to have long-term, we’re certainly going to be aggressive and try to make that happen, and hopefully it will.”
That description also fit Harper last year, who didn’t sign an extension with the Nationals and ultimately left as a free agent to the rival Phillies. Rendon’s career numbers are very comparable to Harper’s at the time of their free agency.
A tale of two Nationals
Rendon will be four years older than Harper so he likely won’t reach the $330 million that Harper got from the Phillies, but Rendon will be coming off a better launch year.
Either way, Rendon will be paid at some point soon. That’s one way to get appreciated.