On whether he feels nervous entering a best-of-five series that begins at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night: “Yeah, it’s playoffs. It’s more important games and everyone wants to win and taking it serious, so you would be lying if you said no.”
On whether he has considered that this may be his last run with the only team he’s ever known, given that he’ll be a free agent this offseason: “Yeah, of course. As the human aspect of it, you want to think about your future and you want to wonder what’s going to happen because nothing’s set in stone.”
This was Rendon at his most candid, his most relaxed, and maybe his most publicly expressive since a spring training interview about contract negotiations that were, and remain, entirely stalled. That was in early February. The 29-year-old doesn’t like speaking with reporters much, especially a big group of them. If he could, he would play baseball with no one watching, like he did growing up in Houston, back when the game was just hitting and fielding and having raw fun.
There are changes that Rendon enjoys. It’s nice to be paid — and paid a lot — for something he loves to do. But it’s attention that bothers him, and as an MVP hopeful about to hit the open market, there’s only more coming. Most players would deny that a contract year is nagging at them in any way. Rendon isn’t most players.
“To be honest with you, it’s like anything else. It’s a big decision in our life, in my life and my wife and my daughters and my family,” Rendon said after admitting that compartmentalizing between now and what’s next is challenging. “But you can’t worry about the future. We can only worry about what’s happening right now. And we might have bigger plans for ourselves, but when does that ever come to fruition? If it was up to us every single day, then we would all have a perfect life, but stuff happens, but it’s an imperfect world.
“We can’t worry about the future, just try to be the best person we can today.”
So the short-term view is that Rendon wants to help the Nationals upend the Dodgers. He will be a key component if they do. He finished this season with a league-high 124 RBI, and career-bests with a 34 home runs, a .319 batting average and an on-base-plus slugging percentage of 1.010. He also led the league with 44 doubles. He is the heartbeat of the Nationals’ lineup, its steady pulse, and gets even more critical against left-handed starters such as Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-jin Ryu.
The Nationals offered Rendon a seven-year deal in the range of $210 million and $215 million earlier in September, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations. That would give him an average annual value of $30 million, the same Washington offered Bryce Harper last autumn, but less than what third baseman Nolan Arenado signed with the Colorado Rockies this past February. Rendon’s representation believes he is more valuable than Arenado, who is a year younger and finished 2019 with 41 home runs, 118 RBI and a .315/.379/.583 slash line. But either way, the Nationals’ proposal seems to set a baseline.
Rendon is aware of all this, even if he avoids social media and would rather do a million other things before reading about himself. He has been involved in negotiations from the beginning. He was so productive this season that he shouldn’t have to talk about himself much moving forward. Agent Scott Boras will help, too. Rendon views the constant free agent chatter similarly to how he approaches the MVP race.
“I don’t know what they’re yelling at or yelling for. It’s definitely a little crazy,” Rendon said of the regular “M-V-P!” chants at Nationals Park. “I don’t know. I’m definitely not a fan of the attention. But it’s good to get recognized for, I guess, the hard work that you put in over the years. So it’s definitely humbling and appreciative.”
But you do hear them, right?
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he shot back with a smile. “No, for sure.”
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