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Strasburg opts out, becomes free agent (source)

@JamalCollier and @feinsand
November 3, 2019

The World Series Most Valuable Player is now a most available player. Stephen Strasburg has opted out of the final four years of his contract with the Nationals, joining Anthony Rendon and several other teammates on the free-agent market, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. The club has not yet

The World Series Most Valuable Player is now a most available player.

Stephen Strasburg has opted out of the final four years of his contract with the Nationals, joining Anthony Rendon and several other teammates on the free-agent market, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

The club has not yet confirmed that Strasburg has opted out.

Following his outstanding regular season (18-6, 3.32 ERA), Strasburg became the first pitcher ever to go 5-0 in a single postseason. At age 31, he should be able to land a deal greater in both length and average annual value. He had $100 million remaining on his contract, though that figure included $40 million in deferrals, making the present-day value of the contract closer to $88 million.

Strasburg is eligible to receive a qualifying offer, and the Nationals will almost certainly give him one, meaning they would receive Draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. While he will have plenty of suitors, he still could end up signing a new long-term contract with Washington. Sources within the organization have expressed confidence the two sides will able to work out a deal.

The Nationals celebrated their first World Series championship Saturday afternoon with a parade through the streets of Washington, an event that started at 2 p.m. ET -- two hours after Strasburg’s deadline to opt out of his contract.

The decision to opt out was made prior to the noon ET deadline, but given the timing of the parade, both the Nationals and Strasburg’s camp kept the news quiet in order to keep Saturday afternoon’s focus on the team’s celebration. He took part in the parade.

Strasburg has been with the Nationals since Washington selected him with the first overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, making his highly anticipated debut on June 8, 2010. The right-hander is 112-58 with a 3.17 ERA in 239 starts over 10 seasons with the Nationals, making three All-Star teams while finishing as high as third in NL Cy Young voting (2017).

Strasburg is coming off one of the strongest seasons of his career. He made all 33 starts, led the National League with 209 innings and was second in the league with 251 strikeouts, opposite 56 walks. He is poised to finish near the top of voting for the NL Cy Young Award.

And Strasburg raised his game in the postseason to help carry Washington to its first World Series championship. The Series MVP compiled a 1.98 ERA and strikeout-to-walk differential of 47 to 4. He was the starting pitcher in three elimination games for the Nats this postseason, including his gem in Game 6 of the World Series, when he held the Astros to two runs in 8 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Earlier in the day Saturday, Strasburg joined the Nationals to celebrate that World Series championship with a parade through the streets of D.C. And the fans were sure to show Strasburg their appreciation at every turn. As he stood on top of a double decker bus, fans cheered “M-V-P, M-V-P.” Before the route began, a group of fans chanted “Please don’t leave! Please don’t leave!”

Not too long ago, Strasburg chose to stay. He and the Nationals avoided arbitration for three straight years from 2014-16, coming to an agreement on a seven-year, $175 million extension in May 2016. According to multiple reports, the deal included $70 million in deferred salary, with $30 million of that deferred money already earned through 2019.

In some ways, his commitment to the organization has only gotten stronger since. He sold his house in his hometown of San Diego last year and bought a house in D.C., where he lives year-round with his family, including his wife and two daughters. He spent the offseason working out in Washington with the Nats’ training staff, making tweaks to his routine that he credited for the healthiest season of his career. This season, players and coaches around the team say they saw a different side of Strasburg, one willing to embrace awkward group hugs and dance not just in the dugout, but during clubhouse celebrations as well.

Strasburg joins Gerrit Cole as the top free-agent pitchers, followed by a group including Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Jake Odorizzi.

Also on Saturday, the Nationals exercised club options on left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle and outfielder Adam Eaton while declining options on first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and catcher Yan Gomes.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.