Stephen Strasburg carved out his own place in the history books on Monday. The only question is how long he’ll hold the title.
After opting out of the final four years and $100 million of his contract with the Nationals following the World Series, Strasburg has reached a record seven-year, $240 million contract to stay put in Washington. In the end, he fetched another three years and $140 million for his troubles. The new deal includes a full no-trade clause and will keep him with the Nationals through his age-37 season.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the new deal includes $80 million in deferred funds which will be paid in the first three years after the contract expires. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the players’ union calculates the present-day value of the deal to be $228.9 million.
No matter how you slice it, this is a record-setter. It’s the largest outlay ever for a starting pitcher, beating out David Price’s $217 million deal with the Red Sox. It’s also the largest in average annual value, topping Justin Verlander’s $33 million figure with the Astros. In fact, with an AAV of $35 million, only Mike Trout’s extension with the Angels has a higher AAV ($35.54 million) among all players.
Strasburg had one of his finest seasons in 2019, posting a 3.32 ERA with 251 strikeouts over 33 starts while leading the National League with 209 innings pitched. It was his first time reaching the 200-inning plateau since 2014. Strasburg was also crucial to the Nationals’ World Series championship run, posting a dominant 1.98 ERA and 47/4 K/BB ratio over 36 1/3 innings. He became the first-ever pitcher to go 5-0 in a single postseason, taking home World Series MVP honors.
There was some speculation that Strasburg would explore the possibility of joining his hometown Padres, but a return to the Nationals always appeared to be the most likely outcome. The only surprise is how much it took to keep him in the fold. Still, it can be argued that Strasburg means more to the Nationals than anyone else. He was drafted and developed by the club and later protected following his Tommy John surgery, so there’s been some mutual trust and loyalty displayed here. And while this contact is unlikely to end well, Strasburg’s legacy will now be linked to this franchise and this franchise only.
The deferred money should help the Nationals have some flexibility to continue to add talent, but it remains to be seen if it will be enough to retain free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon. For what it’s worth, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Monday that they haven’t ruled out the possibility of re-signing him too.
Cole On Deck?
Scott Boras made history by negotiating Strasburg’s new contract and he’s set to do it again with Gerrit Cole, possibly as soon as this week’s Winter Meetings. It was reported on Sunday that the Yankees were prepping a seven-year, $245 million offer for Cole, but Strasburg’s contract will almost certainly push any reasonable offer into the $300 million range. Cole is 29 years old, two years younger than Strasburg, so he’s likely looking at a nine-year deal. Assuming a new record AAV, we can go ahead and set expectations north of $315 million.
Just to put things in perspective, only three players in MLB history have received contracts north of $315 million. That short list includes Giancarlo Stanton ($325 million, originally signed with the Marlins), Bryce Harper ($330 million with the Phillies) and Mike Trout ($426.5 million with the Angels).
The Yankees have been viewed as the favorites for Cole in recent days, but Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes that the Angels and Boras have had multiple “ownership-level” meetings. The Dodgers keep coming up as a possibility, though they have also been linked to Anthony Rendon, a possibility which could pick up some momentum following Strasburg’s mega-deal with the Nationals. Interestingly, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com writes that the Phillies “are still poking around” on Cole, even after signing Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract.
Buckle up, people. We could be in for some good old-fashioned Winter Meetings drama.
AL Quick Hits: Jon Heyman of MLB Network hears that the Indians would prefer to not deal Francisco Lindor, instead revisiting the possibility next offseason … Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox “are actively trying to trade” Jackie Bradley … Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Rangers have signed right-hander Joely Rodriguez to a two-year, $5.5 million contract following a successful season in Japan … Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press hears that Jason Castro is at the top of the Tigers’ list as they pursue a catcher … Royals general manager Dayton Moore said Monday that the club has had internal discussions about a contract extension for slugger Jorge Soler … Angels manager Joe Maddon said Monday that he would consider using Shohei Ohtani out of the designated hitter spot on the days he pitches next season … Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that Brett Gardner has received interest from a couple of teams about a multi-year deal, but remains likely to return to the Yankees … Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Blue Jays have inquired on Travis Shaw while Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com hears that he has interest in returning to the Red Sox … Steve Pearce told Rob Bradford of WEEI that he’s “unofficially retired”.
NL Quick Hits: According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, teams are being told that Madison Bumgarner is seeking a five-year deal worth more than $100 million … Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that there’s a growing expectation that 34-year-old Josh Donaldson will land a four-year contract this offseason … Bruce Levine of 670 The Score in Chicago reports that the Cubs have discussed Kris Bryant with the Phillies … Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Reds are among the teams interested in free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna … Tommy Pham’s trade to the Padres is expected to be finalized at some point on Tuesday after an elbow issue “did not provide full clarity” during a physical over the weekend … Jayson Stark of The Athletic reports that the Padres “seem more motivated than ever” to trade Wil Myers … Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was told by a rival executive that they believe the Giants are the “top bidder” for free agent slugger Nicholas Castellanos … Yoenis Cespedes (heels, ankle) has begun a running program … Junior Guerra, formerly of the Brewers, has formally agreed to a one-year, $2.55 million deal with the Diamondbacks which includes a club option for 2021 … Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pirates “have been getting calls” on Adam Frazier … The Rockies claimed right-handed reliever Tyler Kinley off waivers from the Marlins … The Brewers re-signed left-handed reliever Alex Claudio to a one-year contract after recently non-tendering him … Adam Jones is reportedly in talks on a multi-year deal to play with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan.