The 29-year-old third baseman had just starred in the Washington Nationals’ playoff run to a World Series title, peaking at just the right time to maximize his earnings with his best season as a major leaguer. He was an All-Star for the first time. He led the majors in runs batted in. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage topped 1.000, and he played elite defense. He was a right-handed-hitting star the Dodgers wanted.
But they soon realized a significant problem: Rendon didn’t want to play for them nearly as much as they wanted him. A Dodgers contingent traveled to Houston, Rendon’s hometown, for a meeting with him in November and emerged pessimistic. It was evident to them that they didn’t really stand a chance to sign him. They were so sure of it that they didn’t even bother to offer him a contract before Rendon agreed to a seven-year, $245-million deal with the Angels on Wednesday — a day after Gerrit Cole spurned them for the New York Yankees.
Whether the Dodgers should have let that sense discourage them from making an offer is debatable, but Rendon confirmed the team’s impression was accurate during his introductory news conference Saturday at Angel Stadium.
“Not necessarily we didn’t want to play with them,” Rendon said. “It was always a team we thought and would consider just because the Dodgers are always in the postseason, they have a terrific team, they are built to win, they have a lot of great guys coming up in the organization.
“But in terms of just the way that we’ve heard about how the organization is, whether it’s the Hollywood lifestyle or whatnot, it just didn’t seem like it would be a fit for us as a family. Nothing against them as an organization. We still loved meeting with them. We loved having those conversations. But in the end it was what we thought was best for our family.”
Rendon spoke approximately 40 miles from Dodger Stadium. That is, relatively, an insignificant distance in the grand landscape. But Rendon said he spurned the Dodgers for the Angels because he concluded a palpable cultural difference exists during the free-agent process. He said he and his family did their research, including consulting his agent, Scott Boras, and major leaguers from the area before making the decision to play for the team down the 5 Freeway, forcing the Dodgers to look elsewhere again.
“The [California] taxes aren’t good, but I think you guys know that,” Rendon said. “But the property taxes are actually so much lower than Texas. I think just the environment in itself. I think when people think about California, they think of the straight Hollywood, that glamour lifestyle, whole bunch of flashes and so much paparazzi. But everyone just said it’s the complete opposite down here.”
Maria Torres and Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.