The Washington Nationals have a dilemma on their hands.
Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg and stud third baseman Anthony Rendon are free agents and there owner said Thursday there is no realistic way the 2019 World Series champs can keep both in the fold.
“We really can only afford to have one of those two guys,” Nats owner Mark Lerner told NBCSports. “They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”
Both are expected to snares massive deals on the open market — The Post’s Ken Davidoff predicted six years and $182 million for Strasburg and seven years at $132 million for Rendon — and Lerner was blunt in his assessment of the situation.
“We’re pursuing them, we’re pursuing other free agents in case they decided to go elsewhere,” Lerner said. “Again, it’s not up to us. We can give them a great offer — which we’ve done to both of those players. They’re great people. We’d be delighted if they stay. But it’s not up to us, it’s up to them. That’s why they call it free agency.”
The fiasco is reminiscent of last winter’s Bryce Harper chase, with the Nationals, the franchise that drafted the slugger No. 1 overall in 2012, reportedly offering him $300 million for a ten-year deal. Harper instead went to the Philadelphia Phillies for a record 13-year deal worth $330 million.
Strasburg, who opted out of his contract to become a free agent, is widely expected to stick in D.C., though he had talks with the Yankees this week.
Rendon, meanwhile, has reportedly been in talks with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers.
GM Mike Rizzo, assigned the unenviable task of making sure the Nats don’t lose out on both players this offseason, doesn’t plan on adding another meeting to their dockets at this point.
“We’ve talked to both of them. We’ve talked to the representatives of both of them. We’ve been meeting for about 10 years, so there’s no need to have a personal meetings,” Rizzo told media on Wednesday. “They know where our heart lies and we know where their heart lies.”