Dodgers: A Changing NL East Could Bring Big Pieces to LA

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 7: Bryce Harper
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 7: Bryce Harper /
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DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 30: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals hits a ninth inning double against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 30, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Harper and Rendon 

These two players provide a look into the strength of the Nationals’ rosters over the past few seasons. Individually, they could stabilize the middle of any lineup with their power and on-base skills.

Harper is the obvious star. Polarizing and fiery, with his bat-snapping and beautiful flowing hair that matches his powerful stroke at the plate, he had been the envy of GMs across the league during his stay in D.C. But after rejecting the 10 year $300 million extension the Nationals offered him heading into the off-season, Harper is going elsewhere for 2019, and presumably for around a decade.

The Nationals seem to be retooling, as they are adding and subtracting various pieces after finishing last season with just 82 wins. Strasburg has been extended until his age 34 season, but has opt-out options after the 2019 and 2020. Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Adam Eaton will patrol the outfield next season and the Nats probably will be pressed to contend again next season, with the Phillies presumably adding lots of pitching this off-season, and maybe even Manny Machado, after finishing just two games back of the Nats last season.

In this retooling vein, Anthony Rendon seems like a likely trade candidate. If he is not extended like Strasburg, with 2019 and 2020 opt-outs, then he will most likely be shopped this off-season, as he is slated to become a free agent next off-season.

Rendon was the Nationals best hitter in 2018. Yes, that implies that he was better than Harper, and beyond the raw power numbers, he clearly was. Among Nationals hitters with at least 350 AB’s last season, Rendon was second on the team in WRC+ and OBP, and led the team with a miniscule 13.7% strikeout rate and .308 batting average. He also finished second on the team in home runs with 24 to go along with a team-leading 44 doubles.

Rendon would be a rental for the Dodgers, but he could be extended for the long-term solution at second base and later in his career third base once Justin Turner needs to be replaced. Rendon is currently 28, turning 29 in June, and thus is entering the last few seasons of his prime as a relatively late breakout.

Rendon has exclusively manned the hot corner in D.C. over the past three seasons, so some may forget that Rendon began his career at second base. In his 1423.2 career innings at second base from 2013 to 2015, he has a .982 fielding percentage and only 13 errors, with nine of those coming during his rookie season.

Whether or not he is extended once he is in LA, Rendon provides a better stopgap at second base than Brian Dozier. Rendon is playoff tenured hitter, with 63 PAs in the postseason, and though his overall performance has been lackluster, he has had bad BABIP luck.