One of the last unsigned stars available, third baseman Anthony Rendon found his new home Wednesday night, signing a seven-year, $245 million with the Los Angeles Angels as first reported by Jon Heyman. Rendon, who finished third in the National League MVP voting and made his first All-Star appearance in 2019, hit .319/.412/.598 for 7.0 WAR in 2019, all career bests. A key member of the World Champion Washington Nationals, Rendon’s departure leaves a giant hole in D.C.’s lineup.
That Rendon has achieved this much is a fantastic comeback story given the obstacles he faced early in his career. While it’s hard to characterize a first-rounder as a true underdog, Rendon had multiple ankle surgeries in college from injuries and partially broke his other ankle in his second professional game for the High-A Potomac Nationals in a non-contact injury. But since 2015’s knee and abdomen injuries, he’s managed to stay healthy and crucially, the injuries didn’t appear to thwart his development. Over the last four years, Rendon’s only averaged 15 missing games a year. That’s not Ripken-like, but it’s enough to put the injury worries on the back-burner.
Rendon’s contract with the Angels is a whopper, guaranteeing him $35 million a year. It does come with a certain amount of risk, as there’s a very real difference in the future outlook of a free agent who is going to turn 30 versus one who’s only 25 or 26. Seven years — rather than the 10 years the Angels gave to Albert Pujols — reduces the risk at the back-end of the contract. And unlike Pujols, Rendon also wasn’t showing signs of decline before signing his deal.
The Angels missed out on Gerrit Cole, and wisely turned instantly to the next-best player on the market rather than bemoan losing a bidding war to the Yankees. If Rendon had signed with the Dodgers, that team would have had to do considerable shuffling to get the most from Rendon, moving a perfectly good player in Justin Turner off of third base. The Angels, a team with a number of holes, don’t have any roadblocks to just sticking Rendon in the middle of the order and letting him help the team stop wasting Mike Trout’s prime. An infield of Rendon, David Fletcher, and Andrelton Simmons might single-handedly suppress the league-average for BABIP on groundballs.
The ZiPS projections for Rendon feel a little light; that’s the case for a few reasons. The first issue is that people tend to overrate just how healthy a player will be in his 30s, so a lot of the missing WAR is ZiPS hedging its injury bets. In this case, it’s purely based on age and position; Rendon’s early-career injuries are too far back for the computer to care about. ZiPS also uses a mix of defensive stats rather than just UZR in its WAR. I’d still take the over on the projections, but they’re not as crazy-bearish as first glance might suggest:
Given Rendon’s age, the contract is likely a bit of an overpay from a pure value standpoint, but as I’ve noted repeatedly in the past, any team with Mike Trout on the roster is essentially “pot-committed” to winning games. The team has done a generally lousy job of assembling a roster around Trout, and getting a superstar third baseman is a nice way to remedy the situation. The Angels still need to upgrade their rotation, which is in the bottom third of the league, so they ought not to consider the offseason complete quite yet.
But when it comes to Rendon, my thumbs are firmly locked in the upright position.
Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.