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These teams have best chance to sign Strasburg

@williamfleitch
November 25, 2019

Stephen Strasburg has been such a big part of the Nationals for the last decade -- their successes, their failures, their long-term plans, their strategic missteps -- that it seems difficult to imagine him with another team, particularly after he just won a World Series championship with them. However, once

Stephen Strasburg has been such a big part of the Nationals for the last decade -- their successes, their failures, their long-term plans, their strategic missteps -- that it seems difficult to imagine him with another team, particularly after he just won a World Series championship with them.

However, once Strasburg opted out of his contract with Washington, he raised that very real possibility. The Nationals have another rather high-profile free agent on the market this year in infielder Anthony Rendon, after all, not to mention some rather expensive pitchers in their rotation already.

But will Strasburg really leave? Today, we give you our first installment of our Stephen Strasburg Suitor Power Rankings, a semi-regular feature in which we break down the contenders for each of the major free agents by likelihood they’ll end up getting him. (We did Gerrit Cole two weeks ago and Rendon last week.) Some of this will be driven by rumors, which you can find all over MLB.com, but we’ll try to keep our eyes on the larger prize here: What’s likeliest, and makes the most sense, to end up happening? Where’s he going to end up?

Hopefully, we won’t have to keep updating these through February this year. Here’s Strasburg’s power ranking spots, as of today.

1. Nationals

No reason to overcomplicate this. Washington general manager Mike Rizzo thinks his club inherently has a head start with Strasburg, and he’s clearly beloved by the fan base. He’s got good vibes from the World Series, a natural rapport with the front office and his rotation mates and a team that should have the payroll to keep him. The Nationals are the clear favorite.

2. Padres

There is reason to believe that the Padres might not necessarily be eager to jump out and sign a big free agent to a long-term contract right after spending big on Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer the last two winters. But if they’re going to sign one, Strasburg is clearly the guy.

Strasburg has as long a history with San Diego as you can have: He was born and raised there, he went to college at San Diego State and Tony Gwynn used to be his manager. If he wants to return home, the opportunity is sitting right there. And if you’re the Padres, you’ve got all this young talent but a ton of question marks in your rotation. You want to show you’re serious about pushing the Dodgers in the National League West? Signing Strasburg shows you’re serious.

3. Angels

If San Diego isn’t Southern California enough for Strasburg, or if the Padres back off, Strasburg can come close with Orange County. The Angels need him in the rotation even more than the Padres do, and with superstar outfielder Mike Trout around, they have a clear baseline for winning that no other team in baseball has. They also have big money coming off the payroll each year over the next three seasons -- the Albert Pujols deal is almost over -- which means they can pay Strasburg substantially without it hurting too much.

The Angels have to improve dramatically over the next few years, or they’re going to waste even more of Trout’s prime. Signing Strasburg (and, for that matter, Rendon) could be the quickest, simplest way to do that. Of course, it is believed that Cole is the Angels’ top priority this winter, and if they get him, they aren’t going to be signing Strasburg as well.

4. Yankees

Yep, they’re the Yankees, and they’re always in this, particularly when they’re missing that No. 1 starter that seems to be the biggest hole on their roster right now. If they miss out on Cole -- who feels like a more logical fit, one must say -- Strasburg would be a handy consolation prize. They know he can pitch in the postseason, which is a large part of what pitching for the Yankees means in the first place. They might have to blow him away with an offer to get him to consider leaving the Nationals and snubbing the West Coast … but the Yankees have been known to blow people away with offers from time to time.

5. Phillies

They obviously have a recent history of wooing guys away from the Nationals -- they’re probably going to try to do the same thing with Rendon -- and if they’re going to end the fifth-longest postseason drought in baseball, having Strasburg atop their rotation would be an excellent way to do it. But they had to blow away Bryce Harper with an offer to get him to come. Are they willing to do that with Strasburg?

6. White Sox

The signing of Yasmani Grandal shows they’re serious about contending in 2020, and they need starting pitching more than they needed a catcher. (And they needed a catcher pretty badly.) If they’re truly all in, Strasburg would love pitching with this lineup growing and maturing in support of him.

Other dark horses

Braves: They need a veteran atop that rotation, and this would be a great way to stick it to an NL East rival. But this doesn’t seem like the front office’s M.O.

Cardinals: Having Strasburg and Jack Flaherty atop a rotation keeps them as the NL Central favorites, but if the Cardinals spend big on a free agent this winter, it will more likely be a hitter.

Dodgers: If they spend on a pitcher, you think it’s Cole, not Strasburg.