Anthony Rendon was surprisingly comfortable in front of the cameras and tape recorders during media day before the World Series began. This wasn’t his preferred setting — he’s staunchly avoided the spotlight for most of his seven-year major league career — but he leaned back in the chair and answered, one could even say happily answered, a flood of questions.
He was in Houston, his hometown, to play Game 1 of the World Series the next day as a star for the Washington Nationals. He’d attended high school six miles away from Minute Maid Park. He went to college five miles down the road at Rice. There were ticket requests and texts from people he didn’t remember, adding to the stress of playing for a championship, but it was a homecoming and he was savoring it.
He offered recommendations for Mexican restaurants and barbecue joints in the sprawling city. He said his favorite Juan Soto story is any at-bat when his young teammate grabs his crotch and stares down the pitcher in the batter’s box. He insisted he believes Russell Westbrook can play off the ball with James Harden for his beloved Houston Rockets. He was at ease, a trait that has embodied the Nationals and helped move them to within two wins of a World Series title.
“This definitely has been the most upbeat, fun clubhouse, team that I’ve been a part of during my tenure here,” Rendon, 29, said. “So it’s actually been pretty fun.”
These could be Rendon’s final days as a member of the Nationals. The third baseman will be free agent once the Nationals’ remarkable run is over. The Washington Post reported the Nationals offered him a seven-year contract in the range of $210 million to $215 million, but Rendon has said he wants to test the market.
His landing spot is a mystery, but there is one team he probably won’t sign with: the Astros.
“I don’t know if I could be able to play here 162 games in a year,” Rendon said after the Nationals’ Game 2 win Wednesday.
There will not be a shortage of interested clubs. The two in the Los Angeles area will at least inquire. The Dodgers aren’t in obvious need of a third baseman. Justin Turner produced another strong season in 2019 and is under contract for one more year. But the Dodgers could move Turner — he has experience at other positions — to accommodate Rendon. It could come down to whether Rendon would accept a short-term contract — for four or five years — with a sizable yearly salary. The Angels do need a third baseman and have money to spend, although their primary need is starting pitching.
“It’s kind of out of our control,” Rendon said. “I’ve tried to plan for my future in the past and it didn’t work out the way that I wanted to.”
Rendon overcame a flurry of injuries early in his career to vault from an overlooked elite player to a first-time All-Star this season when he batted .319 with 34 home runs, a league-leading 126 RBIs and a 1.010 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He complemented the production with his usual excellent defense. He is expected to finish in the top three for National League MVP balloting behind Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich.
“I think this year he really put together the five tools that we thought that he had when he drafted him,” Nationals president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo said. “I think they finally came into play this year.”
Rendon has continued displaying his talents throughout the playoffs. He tormented the Dodgers in the National League Division Series, going seven for 17 with three doubles and a crucial home run against Clayton Kershaw in Game 5. He recorded at least one hit in each of the four games in the Nationals’ sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. He’s 13 for 37 in 11 postseason games with five doubles, a home run and nine RBIs.
And in Wednesday’s Game 2 win, he hit a two-run double off Justin Verlander in the first inning. Dozens of friends and relatives were in the crowd. It was a rare opportunity for so many of them to watch him play in person. It was an experience he cherished and the latest stage he’s shined on.