Defending World Series champions Washington Nationals could see one of their top players depart via free agency this winter after principal owner Mark Lerner confirmed they could not afford to keep both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg.

Lerner told NBC Sports Washington’s ‘The Donald Dell Interview’, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

Both Rendon and Strasburg were vital to the Nationals’ first franchise World Series win. The third baseman finished third in National League MVP voting after hitting .319, smashing 34 home runs and driving in 126 runs.

The pitcher, meanwhile, was named World Series MVP for his exploits in the fall classic. Strasburg pitched 14.2 innings and gave up just four runs and 12 hits while striking out 14 batters.

Meanwhile, Rendon will have plenty of suitors, especially after Mike Moustakas signed with the Reds this week. That leaves just Josh Donaldson on the free agent market as a third baseman who comes somewhat close to matching the productivity of Rendon at the plate.

The Texas Rangers and Houston Astros are known admirers of the World Series winner, who is a native of the Lone Star state. The Rangers have more money to throw around currently so are viewed by experts as his likeliest destination.

Strasburg opted out of the remaining years on his Nationals contract to test free agency. The hard-throwing righty is a target for the New York Yankees and sat down to speak with them Wednesday of this past week. The Bombers need to start pitching if they are planning on offering massive contracts to both he and Gerrit Cole.

Strasburg has also met with the Los Angeles Dodgers who have seen both Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill depart after the 2019 season. They will need to replace at least one and signing Strasburg would represent a massive upgrade to their starting rotation.

Lerner has said things like this before. Last year when facing a similar situation with Bryce Harper, the Nationals owner said he felt that the outfielder would not return to Washington. Those feelings turned out to be prophetic as Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.

One thing is certain for both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg: they will both get handsomely paid. The question is just who will sign their checks.