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A Stras homecoming would be huge splash for SD

November 19, 2019

Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft and the '19 World Series MVP, has opted out of the remaining four years and $100 million on his contract with the Nationals to test the free-agent market. He is tied to Draft-pick compensation if he signs with

Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft and the '19 World Series MVP, has opted out of the remaining four years and $100 million on his contract with the Nationals to test the free-agent market. He is tied to Draft-pick compensation if he signs with a new team after being one of 10 players to receive the $17.8 million qualifying offer.

Here are the latest news and rumors surrounding the 31-year-old right-hander, who owns a lifetime 3.17 ERA and 10.6 K/9 mark.

Will Padres make another big move by signing Strasburg?

Nov. 19: It's no secret that the Padres are looking to upgrade their rotation -- but could they really land Strasburg this offseason?

The move certainly makes sense on the surface. Along with the Padres' desire to add a front-line starter, Strasburg is a San Diego native and also attended San Diego State before being drafted first overall by the Nationals in the 2009 MLB Draft. The Padres are also expected to increase their payroll this offseason, though MLB Network insider Joel Sherman said he would be surprised if the club is willing to do so to the extent necessary to land Strasburg.

While Sherman expressed some doubt, MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds predicted that Strasburg would indeed return to his hometown. Reynolds said the Padres are "closer than most think" to being a contender, and he pointed out that the team has handed out significant free-agent contracts in each of the past two offseasons -- Eric Hosmer (eight years, $144 million) before the 2018 season and Manny Machado (10 years, $300 million) last winter.

Could Strasburg deal get done before Winter Meetings?

Nov. 19: When Spring Training camps opened this past February, four of the top free agents in Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel were still unsigned. MLB.com's Mark Feinsand doesn't think we'll see a repeat of that with this year's class, which is headlined by Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Strasburg.

"The thing with Harper last year, [agent] Scott Boras had to develop a market for Harper," Feinsand said Monday on "High Heat with Christopher Russo" on MLB Network. "There weren't multiple teams saying, 'Here's $300 million, here's $330 million.'

"A lot of teams want Cole. A lot of teams want Rendon. I think these two guys may move faster because they're not going to have to manufacture markets for them. These guys are in demand. It's going to be a matter of who's willing to give them the most money, but I don't think these two players are going to be the ones who are going into deep February [unsigned]."

As for Strasburg, Feinsand thinks he could re-sign with the Nationals before the Winter Meetings begin on Dec. 8 in San Diego.

Washington has expressed interest in bringing back Strasburg, who opted out of the four years and $100 million remaining on his contract after the World Series. The club reportedly didn't hesitate to start negotiating a new deal with the 31-year-old after the opt-out decision.

The Padres were thought to be a potential landing spot for the San Diego native, but Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote last week that the team likely doesn't have room in the budget to sign him.

Although Strasburg's market extends beyond those two clubs, the Nats might be the only team that considers Strasburg its clear-cut No. 1 starting-pitcher target as long as Cole remains available.

What happens with Strasburg if Cole signs with the Yankees?

Nov. 16: The market for Strasburg could see a price increase if Gerrit Cole signs with the Yankees, MLB.com's Richard Justice writes as he envisions different offseason scenarios. If that happens, Justice writes, the Angels and Padres could end up in on Strasburg. Ultimately, though, Justice's prediction here is that the Nationals find a way to re-sign the World Series MVP and keep that world championship momentum going. More >

Strasburg, Rendon could sign sooner than expected

Nov. 14: Agent Scott Boras has never been one to rush the free-agent process for his top clients. That appears to be the case this year when it comes to Gerrit Cole, according to SNY's Andy Martino, who cited industry sources indicating Boras has indicated to interested teams that Cole is unlikely to sign before January.

But there might be faster movement in the markets for Strasburg and Anthony Rendon, as Martino has heard, which could bode well for the Nationals.

It's no secret that Washington wants to re-sign the duo, and general manager Mike Rizzo said Tuesday that he thinks the Nats' familiarity with both players gives the team a "head start" over other clubs. Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reported that Rizzo met with Boras for roughly an hour on Tuesday and discussed both Strasburg and Rendon.

Meanwhile, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported the club would like "quick resolutions" with the pair, so there's more time to handle contingency plans, if needed.

Boras represents many of this year's big-name free agents, including Cole, Strasburg, Rendon, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel, which could give him even more influence than usual over the pace of the market. Remember: Last offseason, Boras negotiated a 13-year, $330 million contract for Bryce Harper with the Phillies after Spring Training already had begun, and Harper's contract came after Manny Machado -- the other elite player in last year's free-agent class, but not a Boras client -- had landed a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres.

Why Strasburg may not fit with hometown Padres

Nov. 12: As soon as Strasburg opted out of the remaining four years of his contract with the Nationals, many speculated the World Series MVP possibly could find his way back to his hometown of San Diego. But how likely is that to happen?

While the Padres are intent on landing a starting pitcher or two this offseason, they may not have the budget to pony up what it will take to secure Strasburg -- agent Scott Boras is said to be seeking something in the range of $30 million plus for at least six years -- according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

On one hand, that might seem surprising because the Padres have spent big the past two offseasons, handing out $300 million to third baseman Manny Machado last year and $144 million to first baseman Eric Hosmer in February 2018. On the other hand, though, those very contracts could be precisely why San Diego may not be able to fit Strasburg, who attended San Diego State University before going first overall in the 2009 Draft, into the payroll this time around.

Given those financial restraints, Acee suggests it may be more likely that the Padres target a free agent like Zack Wheeler, who won't command as hefty of a contract as Strasburg or Gerrit Cole. Alternatively, GM A.J. Preller could look to the trade market to add an arm, as the club's Minor League system is as deep and talented as any in the sport, so he has the chips to go that route.

Rizzo: Nats have 'head start' on Strasburg

Nov. 12: Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo thinks his club is in pole position to retain its star free agents, Strasburg and Anthony Rendon.

"We’re going to try and negotiate a deal that makes sense for us and for them," Rizzo said Tuesday at the GM Meetings. "With the added bonus that it takes away a big part of [the process of] acquiring free agents -- which is, you'd better make sure you know the free agent when you acquire them. We already have that covered. And that gives us a head start on those two particular free agents."

The first step of the process will be to meet with Strasburg and Rendon's agent, Scott Boras. Rizzo and Boras met for about an hour on Tuesday, according to Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post.

Rizzo said of Strasburg and Rendon, "We know each other pretty well. They know our feelings toward them personally, professionally, and vice versa."

Yanks GM: 'We're going to talk to Strasburg'

Nov. 11: The Yankees are interested in the top starting pitchers on the market -- and that means Strasburg.

General manager Brian Cashman said so himself Monday at the GM Meetings.

Asked about the Yankees' interest in Strasburg and fellow free-agent ace Gerrit Cole, Cashman said: "Of course we're going to talk to Strasburg. We'll talk to Cole. We’ll talk to the higher-end guys, clearly," also adding that "anybody would have interest in players like that."

How Strasburg can hook free-agent suitors

Nov. 9: Great pitchers are always making adjustments. Here's Strasburg's newest.

MLB.com's Matt Kelly explains how, on Strasburg's brilliant run through the World Series and into free agency, he made his curveball his primary pitch for the first time in his career. That change paid off big-time, and teams pursuing Strasburg this offseason should be looking forward to the new-look ace they could have going forward.

Strasburg's evolving approach is a sign of a maturing pitcher who doesn't rely too heavily on his fastball when it's not as overpowering as it used to be. His curveball is such a dominant pitch that it's the perfect replacement.

Collier: Strasburg in another uniform would be a surprise

Nov. 8: While it remains to be seen whether the Nationals can re-sign Strasburg and Anthony Rendon, one potential roadblock might be off the table.

MLB.com’s Jamal Collier writes in his Friday inbox that Washington’s budget “should not be an issue” in wooing their stars back to D.C., even though both Rendon and Strasburg will be looking for significant raises from their previous contracts with the Nats. The club has repeatedly stated its intention to bring back both pieces from the 2019 World Series championship roster, and Collier notes the actions it has taken to express that. Washington reportedly offered Rendon an extension for roughly seven years and $210 million to $215 million toward the end of the regular season, and committed to Strasburg when it signed him to a seven-year deal back in 2016 -- when his health was still a major question mark -- before the pitcher opted out of that deal after this year’s World Series.

Collier predicts that the Nats will “almost certainly bring one of their stars back,” adding that he would be surprised if Strasburg were pitching in another uniform in 2020.

Strasburg among free agents who could sign early

Nov. 8: After the World Series, many assumed Strasburg would use his opt-out leverage to land a new deal from the Nationals instead of testing the open market. That didn't happen, and the right-hander ultimately opted out of his contract with four years and $100 million remaining to become a free agent.

However, that doesn't mean Strasburg's tenure in Washington is over, and it also doesn't mean the two sides won't be able to work something out before the 31-year-old ever has a chance to meet with other clubs. Strasburg received a one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals on Monday, and he has until next week to accept/decline. He can't sign with another team before then.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported earlier this week that the Nationals have already started negotiating a new deal with Strasburg, and MLB.com's Mark Feinsand on Thursday listed Strasburg among the free agents who could sign early this offseason. While that would be uncharacteristic for a client of agent Scott Boras, so was the seven-year, $175 million extension Strasburg signed just months before he was set to hit free agency in 2016, as Feinsand points out.

Stanton: Yanks should get Cole AND Strasburg

Nov. 7: Is there a timeline where the Yankees sign Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg? If New York slugger Giancarlo Stanton had his druthers, both aces would be in pinstripes next season.

Stanton told TMZ Sports that a team "can never go wrong with Cole and Strasburg," adding that the Bronx Bombers "can never have too many" superstars on their roster. It's no secret that the Yankees are looking for an impact starting pitcher to join Luis Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka in their rotation, and signing either Cole or Strasburg -- the market's two best free-agent starters -- would qualify as a major splash.

"I'm pretty sure Gerrit grew up a Yankees fan, so he'd always like to do that," said Stanton. "And, Stras, we debuted together, so he'd like that."

Stanton and Strasburg both debuted in 2010, though not for the same team of course; they played for division rivals in Miami and Washington. Still, phenoms that come up with other teams are always linked to the Yankees eventually, and Stanton and Strasburg were no different when they took the National League by storm at the beginning of the decade. If Stanton gets his wish, those whispers regarding Strasburg and Cole could come true in the coming months.

Is Strasburg too big of a risk at $30M per year?

Nov. 6: Strasburg has set himself up for a big free-agent payday after opting out of his contract on the heels of a brilliant postseason. The right-hander could make more than $200 million, per some projections. But not everyone is sold on the 31-year-old as a $30-million-per-year player.

"When I look at paying somebody $30 million, I want predictability," said MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM analyst Steve Phillips, a former big league general manager. "That's what I want. And what's really difficult is if you build your team around an unpredictable ace in his health, you don't have a guy in the Minor Leagues … that guy you're calling up from the Minor Leagues is not ace-worthy.

"I look at Strasburg and think, if I'm committing $30 million a year or more -- some are saying $34 million a year for seven years -- if I'm committing that to him, then you better be the most predictable player on my roster … and he just has not been that guy until this season."

Although the highest-profile injury of Strasburg's career came when he underwent Tommy John surgery as a rookie in 2010, he has had a tough time staying healthy since then. Strasburg has reached the 30-start plateau only three times in eight full seasons since he returned from the procedure.

Teams may be encouraged by Strasburg's 2019 campaign, when he threw a National League-leading 209 innings in the regular season and then helped the Nats win a World Series title with a 1.98 ERA over 36 1/3 postseason innings. However, Phillips thinks the extensive workload could make Strasburg more vulnerable in the future.

Strasburg likelier to return to Nats than Rendon?

Nov. 6: With two of their stars on the free-agent market after helping them win the World Series, the Nationals might have a big decision to make between World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon. According to ESPN's David Schoenfield, odds are that pitching will rule the day with Washington's front office.

"The Nats have always tried to build around starting pitching, and given Strasburg's postseason run, if they have to choose between one, I think they lean to Strasburg," Schoenfield writes.

Prior to another tremendous postseason performance, Strasburg put together a strong bounce-back season after a career-high 3.74 ERA in 2018 -- he posted a 3.32 ERA over an NL-best 209 innings during the regular season.

Rendon, meanwhile, enjoyed the best offensive season of his career, slashing .319/.412/.598 with an NL-leading 44 doubles and a Major League-leading 126 RBIs to go along with a career-high 34 homers.

Nats already trying to re-sign Strasburg; will he surpass Price's $217M contract?

Nov. 4: David Price holds the record for the largest contract ever signed by a pitcher at $217 million, but when all is said and done this offseason, there's a chance he might be in third place.

While it seems like a virtual lock that Gerrit Cole will be the new record holder, former MLB general manager Jim Bowden predicts in an article for The Athletic (subscription required) that Strasburg will pass Price as well.

Bowden projects the 31-year-old will receive $34 million a year over seven years, giving him $238 million in total guaranteed money.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Sunday afternoon that the Nationals are willing to give Strasburg a significant raise from the $25 million annual salary on his previous contract. Heyman cited teammate Max Scherzer's $30 million average annual value and Zack Greinke's $34.4 million AAV as comps for Strasburg.

According to Heyman, the Nats are already trying to re-sign Strasburg, but it's uncertain if they'll be able to get a deal done quickly.

Yankees might need to pay CBT penalties to pay Strasburg

Nov. 3: Aroldis Chapman's reworked contract keeps the Yankees' payroll situation relatively neutral in comparison to his former deal, but New York's competitive balance tax (CBT) considerations could still affect the Bombers' ability to go after Strasburg this offseason.

Writing for the New York Post on Sunday, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman estimates that Chapman's $48 million salary over the next three seasons will cost the Yanks roughly $17.5 million annually toward the CBT payroll. Adding that figure to the Yankees' signed players, arbitration-eligible players and handful of non-arbitration-eligible players that the club needs to sign to fill out the roster, Sherman estimates that New York will be right up against the $208 million threshold for the first CBT penalty (20% tax on all overages for first-time offenders). That means the Yankees would have roughly $20 million to spend before triggering the second CBT penalty (additional 12% surtax), and roughly $40 million before triggering the third and final penalty (42.5% tax).

The Yankees have been hesitant to cross the CBT threshold in past years (the Red Sox notably did so while assembling their 2018 World Series champion roster), but the pressure to spend might be heightened in the Bronx after New York finished the 2010s without a single American League pennant. They have internal decisions to make on whether to extend the one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer to shortstop Didi Gregorius, and whether to re-sign reliever Dellin Betances, who tore his left Achilles tendon in September.

Strasburg's previous seven-year, $175 million deal with the Nationals is thought to be the "floor" for his next contract, meaning it would cost the Yankees at least $25 million per season -- and possibly much more -- to sign him. That could require the Yanks to surpass their previous CBT comfort level.

Can Strasburg top previous contract (7 years, $175 million)?

Nov. 3: Last offseason, when Strasburg was coming off four straight years with fewer than 30 starts and had recently turned 30, there seemed to be virtually no chance that he would opt out of his contract and leave $100 million on the table following the 2019 campaign.

Twelve months later, Strasburg is indeed opting out (per a source), and he could be on track to easily surpass $100 million with his new contract.

In fact, ESPN's Jeff Passan calls Strasburg's previous $175 million deal -- a seven-year pact that began in 2017 -- the "floor" for what he could get on the open market.

If that's the case, it could be tough for Washington to re-sign him. It's possible the team will need to choose between Strasburg and Rendon, who is also a free agent and could earn upwards of $270 million. The Nats have Max Scherzer signed for two more years and Patrick Corbin for five more in their rotation, so Rendon might be the priority. According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, some in the Nats' organization thought Bryce Harper was replaceable, but don't feel the same way about Rendon. Harper, of course, left the Nationals and joined the Phillies on a 13-year, $330 million deal last March.

The Nationals, though, aren't ruling out bringing back Strasburg. Heyman tweets that some Nationals people "still like their chances" to keep him in D.C., despite rumblings that he will seriously consider a team in Southern California, where he was born and attended college.

Strasburg opts out of contract; here's what it means for FA market

Nov. 2: On the heels of a postseason for the ages culminating in a World Series MVP Award, Strasburg is set to hit the open market. The right-hander had the ability to opt out of the remaining four years and $100 million on his contract by noon ET on Saturday, the same day the Nationals held their World Series parade in Washington D.C. While no official announcement has been made, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that Strasburg is opting out.

Strasburg immediately becomes one of the top players available, along with longtime Nationals teammate Anthony Rendon and ace right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Of course, just because Strasburg opted out doesn't mean he's going to leave the nation's capital. The Nationals could look to bring him back on a more lucrative contract. Last year, Clayton Kershaw had a similar opt-out situation with the Dodgers, and he eventually used that leverage to land a new three-year deal for $93 million to stay in Los Angeles. Previously, he had two years and $65 million left on his deal.

But for now, Strasburg is free to sign anywhere, which could shake up the starting pitcher market in a big way.

Strasburg opting out means there is a viable alternative to Cole. This doesn't change Cole's status all that much, if at all. But as long as Strasburg is available, teams may be less inclined to talk themselves into Zack Wheeler's potential, or Madison Bumgarner's ability to remain effective as the innings continue to pile up, or the likelihood that Hyun-Jin Ryu can stay healthy.

Aside from Cole, everyone on the starting pitcher free-agent list has been bumped down a peg, and things are about to get very interesting.