Strasburg to Nationals on record 7-year deal

December 10th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- World Series MVP Award winner agreed to a seven-year contract with the defending champion Nationals on Monday, the first day of the Winter Meetings in San Diego. The deal is worth a record $245 million.

Strasburg’s deal -- which averages $35 million per season -- breaks two records, at least temporarily. David Price previously held the record for total dollars committed to a pitcher ($217 million), while Zack Greinke held the mark for average annual value for a pitcher ($34.4 million). However, Gerrit Cole remains on the open market and could make both of Strasburg’s records short lived.

"We couldn't be happier to announce the re-signing of one of our most popular and most important players on our roster in Stephen Strasburg," said general manager Mike Rizzo at a news conference announcing the deal. "As you all know, he's a player near and dear to my heart. Drafted, signed, developed and turned into a superstar right before our eyes with 'Washington' on the front of his chest. So we couldn't be happier that we've signed him long term. He's a wonderful person, a wonderful player and a true champion."

The contract also includes a full no-trade clause. In 2020, Strasburg will reach the 10-5 threshold -- 10 years of service time in the big leagues, five with the same club -- which would automatically give him no-trade rights. But by identifying full no-trade status in his new contract, he'll maintain those rights even if he agrees to a trade during the life of his new deal.

Strasburg, 31, opted out of the remaining four years and $100 million left on his contract following an excellent 2019 season in which he went 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA in 33 starts and 209 innings. The 31-year-old then went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in six games (five starts) in the postseason. In the World Series against the Astros, he started and won both Games 2 and 6, the latter an elimination game in hostile territory in Houston.

Strasburg's original deal was to pay him $175 million over seven years, from 2017-23. This new contract ensures he and the Nationals will stay together through at least 2026.

Strasburg's original deal was to pay him $175 million over seven years, from 2017-23. This new contract ensures he and the Nationals will stay together through at least 2026.

“I often say that these type of deals with these type of numbers and these type of years that you're allocating towards one person is really about the person more so than the player. We knew this person,” Rizzo said. “We know his character. We know his work ethic, and we know that these type of dollars, these type of years are not going to affect the way he prepares, the way he competes, and the way he cares about the name on the front of the jersey more than the name on the back”

The deal continues a long and fruitful relationship between the two sides. The Nationals selected Strasburg first overall in the 2009 MLB Draft out of San Diego State, and one of the most hyped pitching prospects in history made his spectacular 14-strikeout debut a year later, on June 8, 2010.

There were ups and downs after that, including a controversial shutdown before the 2012 postseason, but all that was redeemed with October’s championship run.

"It's very rare that a legacy for a team and a legacy for a player can, in our game, continue as this one has," said Strasburg's agent, Scott Boras. "I think there always has to be that trust factor that exists between an organization and a player. I think the Washington Nationals and Stephen Strasburg built a trust based on an early position by Ted Lerner and the Washington organization and Mike Rizzo about the protection of a player. We came to them with doctor's information about protecting a player, that caused great concern about the team's performance that year. But the club took a long-term interest in that player."

Now the Nationals will attempt to defend their World Series title in '20 with their longtime ace (and at times co-ace) in his familiar spot at the top of the rotation.

In 10 seasons with Washington, Strasburg is 112-58 with a 3.17 ERA, and nearly 1,700 strikeouts (1,695). The three-time All-Star finished third in the National League Cy Young Award race in 2017, and fifth this season.

Given how free agency works, the Nationals undoubtedly had to brace themselves for the possibility of losing their franchise player. That would have been a blow at any time, in any year, but perhaps it would have hurt a little more for it to happen now, so soon after their World Series triumph.

Instead, Strasburg will have the opportunity to lock down every pitching record in franchise history and retire with a distinction not many players are afforded in modern baseball – having played every game of his career with only one team.

In an era defined by analytical, critical thinking that has compelled front offices to find alternative ways to build pitching staffs -- think bullpenning and openers -- the Nationals powered their way to their first World Series title the old-fashioned way -- which was the plan all along. They employed top-of-the-rotation starters capable of heavy regular-season workloads, with expectations that they would continue that intensity in the postseason.

The tandem of Strasburg and Max Scherzer provided an impenetrable force that proved to be a perfect formula as the Nats secured their first championship. Since they became teammates in 2015, Scherzer and Strasburg have combined for 1,840 innings and a 2.97 ERA. Over the past five seasons, they have 2,320 strikeouts between the two of them.

In the 2019 regular season, Strasburg and Scherzer produced a cumulative 3.14 ERA with 494 strikeouts. In the World Series, they allowed eight earned runs over 24 1/3 innings for a 2.96 ERA, striking out 24.

The signing of Strasburg means the Nats will begin their pursuit to defend their title in ’20 with their core starting four intact: Strasburg, Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez. 

“It’s nice to keep the family together,” manager Dave Martinez said. “So, looking forward to 2020. Our starting rotation is looking pretty good. Let’s keep going from there.”