Stephen Strasburg is supposed to an exception to the norm. The flame-throwing 20-year old right-hander has been called by some scouts the best pitching prospect since the institution of the draft.
Between his 102 mile-per-hour radar gun readings, his agent’s possible contract demands, and the fact that he is coached by Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Strasburg is bringing unprecedented attention to the MLB Draft.
The Washington Nationals have the No. 1 pick in the draft and will likely select Strasburg. Then, the negotiations will begin.
It is a fait accompli that Strasburg will shatter the previous record for money given to a amateur draftee, and not solely because his agent is Scott Boras. The record for guaranteed money is $10.5 million, handed to Mark Prior by the Chicago Cubs back in 2001.
According to published reports, Boras is planning on seeking a six-year contract worth at least $50 million, using Daisuke Matsuzaka’s contract with the Boston Red Sox as the model for Strasburg’s contract.
Strasburg would probably be the Nationals’ ace the moment he puts on their uniform; the rumored price for his services is a no-brainer.
However, it is not in his best interests to sign immediately.
The problem is, the Nationals would be tempted to push Strasburg into the starting rotation at the major league level right after he signs. It would give the franchise a boost in ticket sales, national attention and, quite possibly, in the standings as well.
What’s good for the Washington Nationals, however, is not exactly good for Stephen Strasburg. Despite all his evident talent, Strasburg went undrafted out of high school before enrolling at San Diego State. According to published reports, Strasburg was considered out of shape and needed to mature.
As a freshman at SDSU in 2007, Strasburg was a reliever, throwing 37 innings and recording seven saves. Last season, when he began to garner some national attention, Strasburg tossed 97.1 innings over 13 starts.
So far this year, Strasburg has thrown 78.1 innings over 11 starts, going 10-0 with a 1.38 ERA and a 147-to-15 K-to-BB ratio.
Whenever his collegiate career ends this spring, Strasburg will set a personal career high in innings. If he signs a contract with the Nationals by July 1, he could easily add another 50 to 60 innings to his arm’s odometer.
Strasburg is considered a rare pitcher, perhaps a once-in-a-generation type of player. Is it worth risking potential injury to that golden right arm, just to sign a contract quickly and give a new employer immediate results?
Scott Boras should do what’s best for his client: Strasburg should respectfully decline to sign a contract with Washington until the absolute last minute. If he wants to have a long career, sitting this summer could be beneficial.