Just when the Major League Baseball season seems to be in full swing, the hot stove sparks up again.
Last night, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that Stephen Strasburg is expected to ink a seven-year, $175 million extension to stay with the Washington Nationals.
strasburg deal is $175M, 7 years. #nats
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 10, 2016
That looks like a ton of money on the surface, but when you look at what the league’s top starting pitchers are going for these days (Zack Greinke, David Price and Clayton Kershaw all signed deals over $200 million), the $175 million tag starts to look a little less substantial.
There are two schools of thought with this deal.
The first is that Strasburg is having an outstanding 2016 and, with his impending free agency, would have commanded something north of the $200 million figure on the open market. Through six starts this season, Strasburg has tossed 42 innings with 47 strikeouts against nine walks and a 2.36 ERA.
Those kinds of numbers over a whole season in a contract year get you an enormous free agent contract, especially in a year in which Andrew Cashner is the next best free agent option. The Nationals offered Strasburg a large enough extension that he couldn’t pass it up while simultaneously offering him something that may wind up being well below market value.
The other school of thought is much less optimistic. This one looks at Strasburg’s history with injuries and the fact that he’s only thrown over 200 innings once in his first five Major League seasons.
This is a big-time gamble for the Nationals, who have already seen Strasburg undergo one Tommy John surgery. Aside from that major procedure, Strasburg has also dealt with various other ailments throughout his career.
At 27 years old, the contract will take him into his mid-30s. A bit of optimism on the length of the deal comes from the fact Strasburg has thrown just 818.2 innings in his Major League career. Despite his injury woes, the wear and tear on his body has not been as substantial as other six-year veterans.
It’s easy to forget that Strasburg was once the most coveted prospect maybe... ever. The buzz around him when he was drafted was palpable. The San Diego State product has had his problems staying on the field, but when he has pitched, he’s been outstanding.
Strasburg’s career strikeouts-per-nine innings is 10.42 with a walks-per-nine of just 2.21. He also sports a career 3.06 ERA. While he isn’t the second-coming, he’s one of the league’s best pitchers and worthy of a large contract.
It’s more than likely Washington got Strasburg on a discount from what he would have commanded on the free agent market. Ultimately, we’ll never know.
If he continues to battle injuries for the duration of his deal, the contract will be ridiculed for eternity. On the other hand, if Strasburg stays healthy and continues to produce at the rate he has through the first part of his career, the contract could go down as one of the all-time shrewd front office signings.
Experiment 626. Coffee drinker and cat enthusiast. Pro-avocado. Anti-sac bunt. Habitual bat flipper. Alex Smith apologist. Yoenis Cespedes fanboy.