Report: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals Agree to Record 7-Year, $245M Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2019

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 29:  Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals reacts after allowing a solo home run to Alex Bregman (not pictured) of the Houston Astros during the first inning in Game Six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Stephen Strasburg is returning to the Washington Nationals after reportedly agreeing to a new contract worth $245 million over seven years, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.  

Strasburg's contract includes deferred money as well as incentives, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today:

Jon Heyman of MLB Network first reported the two sides came to an agreement Monday, while Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Strasburg's deal has the highest average annual value for a pitcher in league history but noted Gerrit Cole is "likely to get even more" than Strasburg's $35 million per season.

Mark Feinsand of MLB.com also added the contract as a full no-trade clause.

Strasburg became a free agent after opting out of the final four years and $100 million remaining on his deal with the Washington Nationals.

Turning down guaranteed money is always risky, even more so when MLB teams are spending more conservatively in free agency. But Strasburg—as the second-best starting pitcher available behind Gerrit Cole—could feel pretty confident his next payday would eclipse the outstanding money on his Nationals contract.

Front offices are still willing to shell out for the top-tier starters. Washington signed Patrick Corbin for six years and $140 million last offseason. A year before that, the Chicago Cubs gave Yu Darvish a six-year, $126 million deal.

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Strasburg enjoyed one of his best seasons in 2019. He led the National League in wins (18) and ranked seventh among all pitchers in WAR (5.7). He averaged 10.8 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings while posting a 3.25 FIP.

The 31-year-old was even better in the postseason, finishing 5-0 and allowing eight earned runs over 36.1 innings as the Nationals won their first World Series title. He was the World Series MVP as well.

Along with his postseason performance, Strasburg eclipsed 200 regular-season innings pitched for only the second time.

"He's turned himself into a guy that he wants to be a workhorse and an innings-eater," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told the Washington Post's Barry Svrluga in March.

Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman added that Strasburg had become frustrated with the perception he wasn't durable enough to remain healthy over a full season: "I think, over time, that really digs at him when people say that. As it should, because none of us are not competitive."

Strasburg also told Svrluga how he was focusing less on velocity and more on his command.

True to his word, Strasburg's four-seam fastball averaged a career-low 94.3 mph, according to Brooks Baseball. He also threw his curveball (31.0 percent) and changeup (21.0 percent) more than he ever had.

Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery as a rookie in 2010. Since 2012—his first full year back—he has averaged 28 starts per season. That's not ideal for a pitcher at the top of the rotation, and Strasburg isn't getting any younger.

However, the right-hander may have found the pitching formula—namely relying less on his fastball—that will help him stay on the mound for 30-plus starts going forward.

The Nationals know Strasburg better than anybody, too, and they clearly feel confident in his long-term health.

With this deal out of the way, the reigning world champions can focus their efforts on re-signing Anthony Rendon to ensure the nucleus of their roster stays intact.

Stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.