The Washington Nationals tendered contracts to Anthony Rendon, Michael A. Taylor, and Tanner Roark, the club announced Friday. The deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players was Friday at 8 p.m.
In an offseason defined thus far by inactivity, the decisions were mere formalities. The three players — the only three arbitration-eligible players on Washington’s roster — are expected to assume significant roles for the 2018 Nationals. Rendon and Taylor are projected starters coming off career years. Roark is penciled in as Washington’s No. 4 starting pitcher, one the Nationals hope can rediscover his 2016 form after a dip in 2017.
The next step is figuring out salaries. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Rendon is projected to make $11.5 million in 2018, Taylor is projected to make $2.3 million, and Roark is projected to make $7.5 million. The projections, however, can be off the mark. Last year, for example, Roark was projected to make $6.1 million in 2017. He wound up settling for $4.3 million.
The sides can now come to terms on deals on their own or enter a salary arbitration process. The deadline to exchange arbitration figures is in mid-January, but players and teams can agree to contracts up until the scheduled arbitration hearing.
The Nationals, like most teams, try to avoid arbitration hearings, which can get emotional and create tension between the parties. Washington has only gone to hearings twice under General Manager Mike Rizzo: in 2012 with John Lannan and in 2015 with Jerry Blevins. The Nationals won against Lannan, but lost against Blevins.
Another option is negotiating a long-term contract extension. Rendon, the Nationals’ best everyday player last season, is a prime candidate on paper, but his agent, Scott Boras, prefers to have his clients go to free agency and the Nationals were once wary of Rendon’s injury history. But that may have changed after the third baseman posted career bests in batting average (.301), on-base percentage (.403), slugging percentage (.533), home runs (25), RBI (100), doubles (41), and walks (84) while cementing his place as one of the best defenders at his position in the majors.
The work produced 6.9 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement, which tied for third in baseball (excluding pitchers) with Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout. Stanton claimed the National League MVP award. The 27-year-old Rendon finished sixth in the voting despite not making the all-star team.
A year ago, Taylor’s future was uncertain. Injuries had given him the chance to play every day in center field for much of the previous two seasons, but he failed to capitalize. The Nationals, in turn, acquired Adam Eaton to play center field last December. Then Eaton tore his anterior cruciate ligament in late April and Taylor was given another opportunity. Taylor, 26, took advantage on the third chance, batting .271 with an .806 OPS and 19 home runs. All were career highs. Defensively, he also was one of the best at his position. Like Rendon, he was a National League Gold Glove finalist.
Roark, on the other hand, regressed in 2017. His ERA soared from 2.83 to 4.67. His WHIP climbed from 1.17 to 1.34. His FIP jumped from 3.79 to 4.13. The 31-year-old right-hander was troubled by uncharacteristically inconsistent command, particularly with his signature two-seam fastball. The Nationals believe Roark’s stint with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic during spring training, which included long layoffs, set Roark back and he never recovered. His season ended in more disappointing; Roark was on the playoff roster but didn’t throw a pitch in Washington’s five-game National League Division Series loss to the Chicago Cubs.
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