By Sam Bush
Imagine Anthony Rendon at third base for the Phillies in 2020!
According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Phils will not be scared away by the luxury tax and plan to pursue free-agent third baseman Rendon, with third baseman Josh Donaldson as a potential fall-back plan.
The Phillies, who signed Zack Wheeler on Wednesday to a five-year, $118 million deal, would go over the $208 million luxury tax for the first time with the potential signing, but it has not deterred owner John Middleton and the Phillies’ aggressiveness in free agency. The Phillies landed the biggest free agent a year ago with the signing of outfielder Bryce Harper to a record 13-year, $330 million deal.
The Phillies still would like to pursue another starter and relief pitching, but Rendon has become their No. 1 target.
Rendon, the marquee position player on the free-agent market, is expected to demand a contract that pays close to the eight-year, $260 million extension Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado received last spring. It may be a shorter deal, but likely would be for at least $35 million a year. Donaldson, who will be 34 on Sunday, would come at a cheaper cost, but he also likely will receive at least a three- or four-year contract paying him more than $25 million a season. The Phillies also are keeping tabs on free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius.
The acquisition of Rendon or Donaldson would require the Phillies to pay a 20% luxury tax on their payroll above $208 million, but Middleton refuses to let it be an impediment in their pursuit of their first playoff berth since 2011.
Middleton made sure that no one was going to out-bid the Phillies for Harper a year ago, and just like their signing of Wheeler, now wants to make sure they’re in the mix for Rendon.
The acquisition of Rendon would not only provide the Phillies a power-hitting bat in the middle of their lineup, allowing the Phillies to move Scott Kingery to center field or a super-utility role, but take him away the World Series champion Nationals. The deal could also give them the flexibility to trade Jean Segura or touted infield prospect Alec Bohm for pitching help.
“We want to win here,” new manager Joe Girardi told reporters this week. “I think ownership wants to win, the front office wants to win, the coaches want to win, the players want to win and the Phillies are doing everything that we can to win.’’