- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2019

On the red carpet for the premiere of the Washington Nationals’ World Series documentary Monday, Mike Rizzo was in no mood to discuss business. The Nationals’ general manager joked his team was still buzzed on winning the title — and “a lot of Bud Light.”

But while Rizzo prefers to keep the team’s free agency plans close to the chest, that hasn’t stopped two of Washington’s premier free agents from exploring the market.

Pitcher Stephen Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon have both met with other clubs in recent days, according to multiple reports. The Los Angeles Dodgers met with Strasburg last week, while the Texas Rangers met with Rendon on Sunday. Both free agents are allowed to strike a deal at any time, though each will likely meet with additional teams in coming days — Strasburg plans to meet with the New York Yankees this week, according to The Athletic.

The Yankees are determined to upgrade their starting rotation and plan to visit with the top two pitchers available: Strasburg and Houston’s Gerrit Cole.

Strasburg, of course, is coming off a stellar postseason in which he became the first pitcher ever to go 5-0 in the playoffs and was named the World Series MVP. Days after winning it all, the 31-year-old officially opted out of the remaining four years and $100 million left on his contract. He finished the regular season with a 3.32 ERA through a league-leading 209 innings.

Like Strasburg, Rendon is also expected to command top money. The 29-year-old finished third in voting for the National League MVP after hitting .319 with 34 home runs and 126 RBI in 2019. Rendon turned down a seven-year deal worth $210 million to $215 million from the Nationals back in September.

The Rangers, meanwhile, did not extend a contract offer when they met with Rendon in his hometown of Houston over the weekend, but they did send a “contingent of officials” to the meeting, according to the Dallas Morning News.

USA Today reported that general managers see the Rangers as the favorites to sign Rendon. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels indicated to reporters that Texas, which went 78-84 last season, would be aggressive this winter.

It is not clear whether the Nationals are willing to pay top tier salaries to both Rendon and Strasburg. Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies outbid the Nationals for Bryce Harper, signing the All-Star slugger to a 13-year, $330 million deal. Letting Harper walk didn’t backfire for the Nationals — they won the World Series, after all — but Rendon and Strasburg were important contributors to Washington’s postseason run.

Rizzo, who was named MLB executive of the year by “Baseball America” on Tuesday, said he has talked to representatives for Rendon and Strasburg. Each is represented by agent Scott Broas.

Asked if the Nationals plan to meet in person with either player, Rizzo suggested it wasn’t necessary.

“We’ve been meeting for about 10 years, so there’s no need to have a personal meeting,” Rizzo said. “They know where our heart lies and we know where their heart lies.”

One free agent the Nationals don’t have to worry about is first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. After declining his $18 million option, the Nationals and the 35-year-old has expressed interest in re-signing at a cheaper rate.

At the premiere of the documentary, Zimmerman said he expects to get a deal — also telling reporters that if the two sides don’t reach an agreement, he’ll retire.

“I think I’ve made my intentions pretty clear,” Zimmerman said. “It’s either play some more here or play more golf.”

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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