SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — If there is one agent who can dictate the Washington Nationals’ offseason, it’s Scott Boras.
“Any player that wins a world championship enjoys where they played and what they did,” Boras started. “And, you know, these guys were truly . . . um . . . I don’t know, I guess in the oceans of the playoffs, the Strasburg sank many contending ships. The idea of it is that you look at them and say, ‘Are you comfortable there?’ Of course they are comfortable there.
“Rendon was a star in the playoffs, had an MVP-type season, and those environments are great for him. Rendon’s built a throne there. William and Harry should be worried.”
They are two of the top players available and were drafted by the Nationals before becoming stars. Rendon, as Boras mentioned, is one of three finalists for the National League MVP award, which will be announced Thursday. Strasburg was named World Series MVP and led the NL with 209 innings pitched. Boras and Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo met for an hour in Scottsdale on Tuesday. Rizzo confirmed that the Nationals met with six total agencies to discuss potential targets this winter. But conversations with Boras hold the most weight, at least for the time being, at least until both Strasburg and Rendon reach a destination.
Washington is interested in bringing back both. The price will be steep — maybe around a combined $75 million for next season — but Rizzo and the Nationals know their value. They wouldn’t have won a title without them. And they will lose the offseason, based on their internal expectations, if both slip away.
“The idea is that you should always look at factors that ownership [in Washington] is a place that players win at,” Boras continued. “They are committed to winning, and it certainly creates a viable spot for all of them.”
There is a prevailing perception that Boras’s clients — particularly Rendon and Cole — will be swayed by geography. Cole is from Southern California and frequently linked to the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres. Rendon is from Houston, and the Texas Rangers are often seen as a potential landing spot. Even Strasburg, who grew up in San Diego, is regularly connected to the Padres. But Boras countered that logic by saying these players, location aside, will go anywhere to win. It would not be smart for him to shrink their market down to specific regions. He also spent most of Wednesday expressing disappointment in the teams that aren’t spending, saying the league is in “competitive hibernation.”
Yet the overall point relates to Strasburg, Rendon and the Nationals’ title. Strasburg mentioned during the season that he wants to be with a franchise committed to contending. Rendon is a bit trickier and not so direct in that regard, but it’s hard to imagine him joining a team in the middle of a rebuild. That’s why Rizzo doesn’t feel a need to sell Strasburg or Rendon on the Nationals. They have been building relationships for years and now have won it all together, so negotiations will begin with familiarity.
On Tuesday, when he first spoke with reporters in Scottsdale, Rizzo had not yet sat down with Boras. Doing so later that day, in a packed two days before Rizzo departed for his wedding in Jamaica this weekend, did not tell him much about how quickly either player wants to move. Boras expects the big-name free agents to sign sooner than they did last year, when many were waiting for deals when spring training began. But that doesn’t mean he won’t diligently scan a market that only starts with the Nationals.
“It’s early in the process,” Rizzo said when asked whether the meeting gave him any insights into Strasburg’s and Rendon’s timelines. “I wouldn’t describe it as clarity, but I would describe it as good opening dialogue.”
Rizzo and his team do extensive background research before signing a player. But they can skip that with Strasburg and Rendon and cut right to the chase, making Rizzo feel he can move quickly if Boras and the players are willing. That, of course, requires the numbers working for both sides. Boras smiled Wednesday while saying that any player would want a short free agency. But he is out to make sure Strasburg and Rendon get paid what they are worth.
Boras began his session by describing the flaws of evaluation and predictive analysis. The meat of his argument was Rendon, who has outperformed his projected wins above replacement — an advanced statistic used to measure overall value — in each of the past four seasons. The same goes for Strasburg, who has long operated in Max Scherzer’s shadow and who shifted the narrative during the Nationals’ championship run.
Both players like to be comfortable, like their set routine and have thrived in Washington because it affords privacy that could disappear in a bigger market. That should all work in the Nationals’ favor. The World Series win should, too. But that doesn’t mean Strasburg or Rendon will come any cheaper.