It’s been a long journey for the righty, who will take the ball for Washington’s game against the Marlins tonight. This will be his first time on a big league mound in over a year, as his last appearance was June 1 of last season. He would eventually undergo surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome, a procedure he has been working back from ever since.
A lot has changed for the Nationals between Strasburg’s last start and tonight’s game. At the time of the former game, the Nats still had many of their 2019 World Series-winning players, such as Trea Turner, Max Scherzer and Yan Gomes, in addition to many other subsequently-added veterans. Just about any player that was healthy and valuable and not named Juan Soto was traded at last year’s deadline, however, leaving the team with a roster primarily composed of young and unproven players, to which they eventually added veterans on short-term deals.
The club is now clearly in a retooling year, currently sporting a 21-37 record that has them firmly planted in the NL East basement, five games behind the fourth-place Marlins and just barely ahead of the Reds for the worst record in the National League. That means that Strasburg’s performance won’t need to be scrutinized too closely in the short term, though the long-term implications will be important. Strasburg is making $35MM this year and each of the next four years (though some of the money will be deferred.)
The Nats are hoping for a quick turnaround and a return to competition in the coming years, especially with Soto currently slated to hit free agency after the 2024 campaign. Soto’s already making over $17MM this year and will only see that number go up over the next couple of seasons as he goes through arbitration again. With Patrick Corbin also due to make a total of around $60MM over the next couple of years, the team will be spending a big chunk of its payroll on those three players, making it all the more important for Strasburg to get back to his old self. He’s pitched only total 26 2/3 innings over the past three seasons but was excellent in 2019, throwing 209 frames of 3.32 ERA ball, before throwing 36 1/3 more in the postseason with a 1.98 ERA, being an instrumental part of the franchise earning its first ever World Series trophy.