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.
Impact of Strasburg's record $245 million deal
Dec. 9: Strasburg opted out of the final four years of his contract with the Nationals at the start of the offseason. But it appears he's not going anywhere after all -- and he's getting a record amount for a pitcher, too.
The reigning MVP of the World Series has a deal in place to remain with the Nats, according to MLB Network insiders Jon Heyman and Ken Rosenthal.
The contract is for $245 million over seven years, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
That beats out the previous records for both total dollars -- $217 million signed by David Price back in December 2015 -- and average annual value -- $34 million for Zack Greinke's deal with the D-backs, also from December '15 -- for pitchers by quite a bit.
Two key questions now arise: After bringing back Strasburg, can the Nationals still go big and re-sign Anthony Rendon, too? And how long will Strasburg hold those records, given that Gerrit Cole is seen as the top arm on the free-agent market (ahead of Strasburg), and thus is expected to score a larger amount?
Report: Padres aren't planning to meet with Strasburg or Cole
Dec. 9: Although the Winter Meetings are in San Diego, the Padres may stay mostly in the background, at least when it comes to the top free agents on the market.
Given Strasburg's roots in the city and the team's need for an ace, the Padres were expected to be in on the right-hander after he opted out of his contract with the Nationals. However, Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union-Tribune writes that they "are not looking to add that kind of commitment to a payroll that is near their expected ceiling for 2020."
In fact, two sources told Acee that it was established weeks ago that Padres general manager A.J. Preller would not be meeting with agent Scott Boras regarding Strasburg or Gerrit Cole.
Per Acee, both sources made it clear that the Padres don't feel the need to spend big on an ace starter because they think Chris Paddack and prospects Mackenzie Gore (Padres' No. 1 prospect, MLB's No. 4 overall) and Luis Patino (Padres' No. 3, MLB's No. 30 overall) will form an impressive trio at the top of their rotation within the next few years.
With the Padres out of the mix, Strasburg's market appears to consist of the Nationals, Angels, Dodgers, Yankees and Phillies, with Washington positioned as the favorite, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.
Nats remain more confident in re-signing Strasburg than Rendon
Dec. 8: With the Winter Meetings set to get underway in San Diego, the Nationals' view of their free-agent situation reportedly hasn't changed. According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, Washington remains more confident it can re-sign Strasburg than Anthony Rendon. Per multiple reports, that has been the case for some time.
It was initially thought that the Nats were looking to bring back both players, but managing principal owner Mark Lerner told NBC Sports this past week that the team could afford only one of them.
Washington may be more likely to re-sign Strasburg, but that doesn't mean the right-hander's return is a lock. Many expected Strasburg to quickly work out a new deal with the Nats after opting out of his contract in November, but he's still a free agent, perhaps signaling that the two sides remain far apart in discussions.
In an article for The Athletic (subscription required) on Sunday, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal outlined a scenario in which the Nationals don't end up with either player. In Rosenthal's scenario, Rendon lands with the Dodgers, and agent Scott Boras is able to maximize Strasburg's value by first negotiating a record deal for Gerrit Cole with the Yankees. Missing out on Cole in this hypothetical situation causes the Angels to ramp up their pursuit of Strasburg, a fellow Southern California native.
The Nationals are believed to have interest in free agent Josh Donaldson as a fallback option at third base, but it's unclear how they would proceed if Strasburg departs. Even without Strasburg, Washington's rotation is in solid shape with Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez leading the way.
Nationals owner says club cannot afford to bring back both Strasburg and Rendon
Dec. 6: The reigning champions may be preparing to lose at least one of their very best players, Strasburg and/or Anthony Rendon. Given that the former won MVP of the Fall Classic and the latter finished third in NL MVP voting, that's potentially a very big development this offseason.
"We really can only afford to have one of those two guys,” Nats owner Mark Lerner said to Donald Dell of NBC Sports Washington in an exclusive interview. “They’re [expected to sign for] huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with."
Per Roster Resource, the Nationals' payroll for 2020 was projected to be around $135 million before the club agreed to a one-year, $6.25 million contract with Howie Kendrick on Friday. In theory, re-signing Strasburg and Rendon -- both of whom could score north of $30 million per year -- would then push Washington's payroll close to $200 million, just under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $208 million.
Of course, the Nats did just win the World Series -- the franchise's first -- and should benefit financially from that (via ticket sales, merchandise, concessions, etc.), which could be a factor in the possibility of keeping both Strasburg and Rendon. Lerner's remarks, however, indicate otherwise.
For what it's worth, Lerner also commented last offseason that he thought it would be unlikely Bryce Harper -- the longtime franchise face -- would return to Washington. That proved to come true when Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies.
Report: Angels have met with Strasburg
Dec. 5: The Angels hired Joe Maddon to be their new manager. They've got the best player in the game in center field, Mike Trout, which adds pressure to win during his prime years. They traded for right-hander Dylan Bundy on Wednesday. Is signing Strasburg the next step in building a winner? According to an Orange County Register report, the club has met with the World Series MVP face-to-face, indicating a serious level of interest in signing him.
Strasburg had a rough 2018 campaign that was shortened due to injury, but bounced back in a big way last season, posting a 3.32 ERA over a National League-leading 209 innings, striking out 30 percent of the batters he faced. He then helped lead the Nationals to the franchise's first World Series title by giving up four runs in 14 1/3 innings (2.51 ERA) over two starts against the Astros.
Strasburg is a Southern California native and was drafted by Washington out of San Diego State University. He has not, however, expressed a West Coast bias so far in free agency.
Are Nats still the favorites for Strasburg?
Dec. 4: Before Strasburg opted out of the four years and $100 million remaining on his contract with the Nationals, it was widely assumed he would use his leverage to squeeze an extra year out of Washington, like Clayton Kershaw did with the Dodgers last year. Then, when he decided to opt out, many speculated it wouldn't be long before a new deal was agreed upon between the 31-year-old and the only franchise he's ever played for.
Although Strasburg remains unsigned with the Winter Meetings looming next week, the sense around the game doesn't seem to have changed much. According to baseball reporter Peter Gammons, multiple people within the Nationals organization and a couple of rival general managers whose teams are pursuing Strasburg have said they are convinced Washington GM Mike Rizzo is going to get a deal done with the right-hander. That confidence might stem from the uncertain nature of Strasburg's market. At this point, the Nats are the only team that seems to consider Strasburg its top priority.
Strasburg was scheduled to meet with the Yankees on Wednesday, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, and the Dodgers sat down with him recently, per a report from Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times. But both of those clubs are also in on Gerrit Cole and may be looking at Strasburg as more of a fallback option. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Wednesday that the Phillies were "looking at" Strasburg too, but that was before Philadelphia agreed to a five-year deal with Zack Wheeler. And while the Padres were initially expected to make a push for the San Diego native, the club reportedly hasn't shown much interest in paying up for a top starter.
Report: Dodgers recently met with Strasburg
Dec. 3: It appears Anthony Rendon isn't the only former National who recently met with the Dodgers. Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reports that the club also met with Strasburg.
The rotation is arguably a greater need for Los Angeles than third base, with Justin Turner signed for one more season. The Dodgers have two rotation spots to fill after Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill became free agents in November.
The club does have a number of internal rotation candidates, including Julio Urías, Ross Stripling, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, but L.A. may need some of these pitchers in the bullpen.
Padres reportedly not showing much interest in paying for top starters
Nov. 27: The Padres were busy Wednesday, trading for outfielder Trent Grisham and right-hander Zach Davies and then agreeing to a four-year deal with reliever Drew Pomeranz. However, it doesn't appear as though adding Strasburg or another big-name hurler to its rotation is next on the team's to-do list.
According to Dennis Lin of The Athletic, San Diego hasn't "shown much interest in paying the going rate for a top starter." Instead, the team could look to add more pieces to the bullpen to team with Kirby Yates, Andres Munoz and Pomeranz, per Lin.
The Padres were thought to be an obvious fit for Strasburg when the right-hander opted out of his deal with the Nationals. The team has a need for a proven ace, and Strasburg is from San Diego. But with Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers on the books for roughly $75 million per year over the next three years -- at which point the club can buy out Myers for $1 million -- another large expenditure might not be in the cards this offseason.