As the General Manager’s Meetings get going today, there will be a lot of framework set in place for trades. This off-season, general manager Mike Rizzo made an early trade for Kyle Barraclough, and Rizzo might not be done. He could also be looking to trade away some veteran players like Tanner Roark, Michael Taylor, and Sammy Solis who are all arbitration eligible players. With all of the decisions to be made, the Nationals also have several players who are at key contract points with the team after next season. If Bryce Harper is reacquired, that could certainly signal some much different futures for several Nationals‘ players.
- Anthony Rendon is a free agent after 2019.
- Ryan Zimmerman‘s contract ends after 2019 with an option afterwards.
- Stephen Strasburg has a player opt-out after 2019.
- Tanner Roark is a free agent after 2019.
For general manager Mike Rizzo, he has some decisions to make now that could impact all of those players. For instance if he re-signs Bryce Harper, it will limit cash to spend on extending Rendon unless the team parts ways with Ryan Zimmerman — but it might be prudent to extend Zimmerman now and lower his burden on the CBT salary threshold. We also checked with Jeff Euston the CBT expert at Baseball Prospectus who maintains the Cot’s salary register. Due to the paucity of situations where contracts have been reworked for CBT purposes, we wanted his expert opinion on whether or not a new Zimmerman deal would work.
“In theory, yes. But it’s up to each player and club whether to treat it as two separate deals (the existing deal with a new extension) or as two deals merged into one new contract. A club like Washington will prefer one new deal for the reduced CBT hit, as you describe.
“But the player would have to get enough new money to make it worth his while. And the MLBPA is loathe to sign off on any reduction in salary, obviously. … It’s not really common, but I know it came up with Brett Gardner and the Yankees when he signed a new four-year deal in 2014. And it came up with the big extensions for Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera, as well.”
If you do not extend Zimmerman now, the Nationals could be on the hook for a $2 million penalty to buy-out his option, but early indications are that the team will not pick-up his $18 million option for 2020 and will look to renegotiate a market rate deal which begs the question, why not do it now and get some salary relief this year by giving him a new deal at 3 years at $9 million each since the team owes him $18 million for 2019 that would be adding $4.5 million for 2 years essentially while receiving salary relief for 2019 by spreading that over 3-years.
If the Nationals do not reacquire the services of Bryce Harper, they should immediately turn to negotiate a long-term deal for Anthony Rendon. The team must do this so they are not in the same situation as they were the past year with Bryce Harper where they had chances to trade him for young prospects and instead held on to him with the hopes he would want to stay. Maybe ownership and Rizzo thought with their hearts instead of their brains on this one. Of course we should not jump to conclusions as this is not over yet.
One reason for the Nationals to acquire a pitcher like Dallas Keuchel or Patick Corbin is a hedge in case Stephen Strasburg opts-out of his deal after the 2019 season. It looks probable that Tanner Roark is headed to free agency by the end of 2019 if not before. The rotation will be anchored by Max Scherzer for the near-future. After 2019, the rotation could look very different.