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December 06, 2019

MLB rumors: Phillies' top priority in free agency is Anthony Rendon, despite the likely cost

The 29-year-old reached his first All-Star Game in 2019, and propelled the Nationals to a World Series

A year ago, the Phillies spent "stupid money" and missed the playoffs. This offseason, it sounds like they're doubling down on the approach.

The Phils are expected to pursue All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon, according to a report Friday from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, despite the fact that he'll likely garner the offseason's most pricey contract:

"The Philadelphia Phillies, luxury tax be damned, plan to strongly pursue free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon, with third baseman Josh Donaldson as a potential fall-back plan, two people with direct knowledge told USA TODAY Sports."

Rendon, 29, reached his first All-Star Game this past season, slashing .319/.412/.598, hitting 34 home runs, and driving in 126 RBI in an impressive breakout season. He finished third in the NL MVP race, piloting the Nationals to their first-ever World Series title.

Needless to say, Rendon would be a team-changing, timeline-shifting signing for the Phillies, and owner John Middleton has made Rendon the team's new "No. 1 target," according to Nightengale's report.

It's certainly not a sure thing, considering signing Rendon to either a short- or long-term deal will likely put the Phillies into luxury tax territory; according to Nightengale, the expected annual value for a Rendon contract is currently floating around $35 million per year.

But after the team spent $330 million on Bryce Harper this past spring, and then doled out $118 million to Zack Wheeler earlier this week, it's become clear Middleton isn't afraid to max out the bank account in his pursuit of a title.

Should Rendon sign elsewhere, the Phillies could pursue veteran Josh Donaldson as a backup third base plan, according to Nightengale. Donaldson, 34, could demand close to $25 million per year, Nightengale believes.

Elsewhere in the MLB rumors world, Jon Heyman reports the Phillies are interested in Nationals star pitcher Stephen Strasburg, along with Astros ace Gerrit Cole:

If the Phillies manage to poach either Rendon or Strasburg — or, if I can think truly deliciously for a second, both — from their division rivals, one year after snatching the face of the franchise in Harper, Nationals fans might actually lose their collective minds.

Buckle up, folks. The hot stove is suddenly scorching.

MORE: Paul Hagen: The Phillies should STILL break the bank for Gerrit Cole, and here's why

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