The Nationals’ move to lock up Stephen Strasburg came out of nowhere, at least so far as public knowledge is concerned, and it’ll have wide-ranging repercussions for the organization and the broader market. Strasburg bypassed a chance at a major free agent sweepstakes to stay in D.C. for at least three seasons — that’s when he’ll have the first of two opt-out chances — and pick up a guarantee of $175MM over seven years. It’s a highly significant contract for many reasons, so it’s no surprise to see plenty of reactions rolling in:
- Agent Scott Boras provides some interesting details on the signing to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. After both sides gauged interest this spring, the agent and owner Ted Lerner hammered out the agreement over the weekend, per the report. Strasburg and his wife wanted to ink long-term with the Nats, said Boras, “so I really moved aggressive[ly] to get this deal done.” The super-agent says that the contract rewarded the organization for its “ethically and medically driven” handling of Strasburg through the Tommy John process, which also “has to do with why Stephen is so comfortable in Washington.” From the player’s side, the deal obviously keeps him where he wants to be, but also holds onto some upside. “For me, the big thing was the flexibility of the contract,” said Boras. “Stephen has a lot of security, and the opportunity to stay or leave. It works out well for both parties.’’
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs echoes that sentiment from an analytical perspective. He likes the idea of Strasburg taking the risk of pitching out the 2016 season off of the table, but also sees the merit in the club’s investment. As Cameron notes, Strasburg is younger than most free agent arms, and he could deliver plenty of value on the deal even if he ends up missing time over parts of it — particularly once the deferrals are accounted for.
- One notable element of this contract is that it sets a record for a Tommy John patient, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports notes. In the latest example of the Nationals’ investment in questionable elbows, Passan asks whether the organization is going against its own views of UCL replacement durability in making such a deal at this point in time. Jonah Keri of CBSSports.com also offers his thoughts, focusing in particular on the role of Boras and his cozy relationship with Nationals’ ownership.
- Jon Morosi of MLB Network argues that Strasburg’s absence from the coming free agent market could spur trade activity “far earlier than anyone expected.” ESPN.com’s Buster Olney likewise suggests that there’ll be increased focus on controllable starters from other clubs as a result of the move.
- I’m not sure I agree that the extension has a significant impact on this summer’s trade season, which already was likely to feature questions about high-quality starters who are currently under long-term control. Teams weighing deadline deals for starting pitching likely would not have changed their approach very much based upon the mere chance of landing Strasburg over the winter; after all, he would’ve been the clear prize and had multiple suitors, and his price tag would’ve been both astronomical and uncertain. Meanwhile, organizations with desirable trade assets may now actually see greater value in holding onto their arms, comfortable in the knowledge that there’ll be lots of demand even after the season. Plus, the Nats might well have been in the market for a rotation piece — and likely would’ve pursued Strasburg — had he not inked this contract, so the overall level of demand may not have changed much.