The Nationals and Stephen Strasburg have agreed on an extension to keep the stalwart right-hander in the nation's capital long-term, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. MLB Network's Jon Heyman adds that the deal is for seven years and $175 million, and is expected to include two opt-outs and deferred money. An official announcement is expected to come tomorrow.
According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the opt-outs are likely to come after the third and fourth seasons of the deal, in 2020 and 2021. Strasburg will also have the ability earn an additional $7 million via annual performance bonuses, bringing the potential total value of the contract to $182 million.
The 27-year-old Strasburg was poised to be the premier free agent available next offseason, however, the extension significantly weakens the top of next winter's free agent class, much to Washington's delight. Removing Strasburg is quite a blow to the group of starting pitchers expected to be available come November, with names like Andrew Cashner (Padres), Rich Hill (Athletics), Brett Anderson (Dodgers), Mat Latos (White Sox) and Jeremy Hellickson (Phillies) among the top available options. James Shields (Padres) and Scott Kazmir (Dodgers) have opt-out clauses, meaning they may join the free-agent group as well.
Locking up Strasburg gives the Nationals a stable foundation atop their rotation alongside Max Scherzer, who received a similar 7-year deal with significant deferrals prior to the 2015 season. Of course, Scherzer was a free agent at the time, which certainly played a role in allowing him to top the $200 million mark, which Strasburg seemingly failed to do. He fell short of recent mega-deals given to pitchers such as Scherzer, David Price ($217M), and Zack Greinke ($206.5M).
Were Strasburg to have reached the open market, it appears probable that bidding would have surpassed $200 million, so Strasburg likely sacrificed at least some money for security from any potential mishaps that could occur over the next five months. Strasburg does have a shaky track record health-wise, having undergone Tommy John surgery in 2010, while topping 200 innings in a season just once (2014). He also spent time on the DL last season amid an up-and-down 2015 campaign that depreciated his stock to a degree. However, he is relatively young for an impending free agent, and has demonstrated the ability to perform at an elite level.
Stephen Strasburg's contract -- 7 years, $175 million -- is largest ever for a pitcher who has had Tommy John surgery. @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) May 10, 2016
The Nationals' rotation looks to be quite formidable for the foreseeable future, with a Scherzer and Strasburg-led group bolstered by Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, and Joe Ross, all of whom have an ERA under 2.20 so far this season. Uber-prospect Lucas Giolito is also expected to reach the majors within the next year.
Locking up Strasburg also allows the Nationals to turn their full attention to signing Bryce Harper to an absurdly-lucrative deal of his own. Signing Strasburg, who preceded Harper as the first overall pick in 2009, would appear to bode well for Washington's odds of extending Harper, as it demonstrates the Nationals' ability to prevent a Scott Boras client from reaching free agency.
Strasburg was due to be top FA of the offseason. He is also the first Scott Boras pitching client since Jered Weaver to sign an extension.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) May 10, 2016
The league has long been captivated by Strasburg's electric stuff, dating back to his heralded college career at San Diego State University, followed by a swift rise to the majors. For his career, the 2012 All-Star owns a 127 ERA+, 2.78 FIP, 10.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, and 20.4 WAR over 818.2 innings. He has gotten off to an outstanding start this season, notching a 2.36 ERA, 1.79 FIP, 5.22 K/BB, and 1.7 WAR in 42 innings entering Monday (for what it's worth, he wasn't exactly at his best during Monday's start against Detroit).
Needless to say, there is certainly risk in this deal for the Nationals due to Strasburg's own injury history and the general Pandora's box that is a pitcher's arm. However, on the surface, this appears to be quite the mutually-beneficial agreement. It's a coup for the Nationals, as they lock up one of the game's brightest arms to a fairly reasonable deal. And for Strasburg, the deal represents certainty. That's really all any pitcher can ask for in today's game.