Coming off their first World Series title, the Washington Nationals expected to lose some contributors from their championship team. Now, managing principal owner Mark Lerner is saying the team will lose at least one of Anthony Rendon or Stephen Strasburg.
In an interview with NBC Sports Washington, Lerner cited the team’s lack of financial flexibility as the reason keeping it from signing both of its two biggest stars from the World Series.
“We really can only afford to have one of those two guys,” Lerner said, via NBC Sports Washington. “They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”
The Nationals currently rank 16th in 2020 payroll at nearly $101 million, according to Spotrac. Now with multiple players headed for raises, either under arbitration or in their contract, Washington’s ownership group seems determined on staying under MLB’s luxury tax.
Lerner’s statement confirms what some believed would happen when Rendon and Strasburg both hit free agency. Rendon reportedly turned down Washington’s seven-year deal during the year worth more than $210 million and will likely exceed that mark in the open market.
Meanwhile, Strasburg is coming off a historic postseason with a 1.98 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 47 strikeouts in 36.1 innings, along with the World Series MVP award. He is expected to receive a deal worth more than $30 million per season and could receive a six-year contract.
Given the interest Strasburg is generating from the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, it’s possible the All-Star pitcher could leave this offseason. Meanwhile, Rendon could also walk in free agency with the Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox and Dodgers after him.
If the Nationals lose both, Lerner and the rest of ownership might face significant questions from fans after losing two of the best players in MLB and costing the team a chance to defend its title in 2020.