Game 6 is not only a win or go home situation for the Washington Nationals as they take on the Houston Astros in the World Series, it could be the last time their veteran starting pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, takes the mound for the D.C. franchise. The right-handed phenom has an opt-out clause in his contract after the World Series, which if he chooses to exercise, could make October 29, the last “Strasmus” for the Nationals team.
After Strasburg throws his final pitch during Game 6, he has 72 hours to decide whether or not he will opt out of the monster $175 million contract he signed with the Nationals in 2016. And because he’s repped by sports agent Scott Boras, who also represents MLB superstar and former teammate Bryce Harper, along with current teammate Anthony Rendon, who will be a giant free agent get in the 2019-2020 season, it’s widely expected that Strasburg will at least, test out the free agency waters.
At 31, Strasburg is a player trending towards becoming one of the rare elite MLB starting pitchers to stay with same franchise throughout his entire career. Drafted as the No. 1 overall pick in 2009 by the Washington Nationals, Strasburg was the most hyped player in America, a beacon of hope to a young and hungry D.C. team, he has continued to build on what will likely be a Hall of Fame-worthy career.
For the nearly 44,000 fans cheering at Nationals Park during Game 5, with President Donald Trump making an appearance, the fact that Strasburg was heading into free agency, and this could be his last time at the stadium as part of the Nationals rotation seemed to fall by the way side. Or, perhaps it was a thought too depressing for Washington fans to tack on at the time, for they had just watched the Nationals lose 7-1, their third consecutive home loss in the World Series.
The Are Numerous Obvious Reasons Why Strasburg May Choose To Stay In Washington
Back in June, when Strasburg was first asked about opting out of his contract he said to The Washington Post, “For me, it’s wanting to have opportunities to play for a championship. I think [the Nationals] have shown a willingness, so far, to not necessarily go into a rebuild. The clock’s ticking for me career-wise, and I want to have every opportunity to get there and hopefully win one.”
At the time, the Nationals were one of the worst teams in the MLB, but also just before Washington jumpstarted their historical second half of the season, which preempted the team’s incredible run to the World Series for the first time ever. Now, that Strasburg has gotten his post-season wish, he may be more willing to stay in Washington.
As his contract stands, Strasburg is due $25 million in 2020 (of which $10 million is deferred), $15 million in both 2021 and 2022, and $45 million for 2023 (of which $30 million is deferred). In the past three seasons, only two pitchers have signed bigger deals, Patrick Corbin, which was offered by Washington, and Yu Darvish, who received a 6-year $126 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.
The other reason Strasburg, who’s originally from San Diego, might stay with the Nationals, the notoriously private and introverted star pitcher has settled in nicely to the Washington area with his wife, Rachel Lackey, and their two daughters, both of whom were born in D.C.
After signing his extension in 2016 Strasburg said of the Nationals, “There were a lot of situations in the past where they took care of me. Not just as a pitcher, but as a person.” Even Jim, Strasburg’s father commented on how his son has taken to Washington.
“I laugh at all the comments,” Jim told The Washington Post. “I knew for some time that both Rachel and Stephen like the D.C. area. It’s a great place for young people. He’s in a fortunate situation where they have a nice place, and they have things to do other than baseball.”
While it widely believed that if Strasburg were to leave D.C., it would be to play for a team on the west coast in order to be closer to family, in April 2019, Strasburg sold his San Diego home for a $1.3 million, as reported by The Los Angeles Times, which is the opposite move one makes if you’re thinking about returning home.
The Main Reason Strasburg Might Opt-Out & Leave Washington? Because Scott Boras Is His Agent
The short answer? Money. Also, the fact that Boras is Strasburg’s manager, and his clients are notorious for not signing extension deals. When Strasburg signed his 7-year extension in 2016, it was a rare and surprising move. The only other pitcher Boras has represented who signed an extension deal was Jered Weaver’s deal with the Los Angeles Angles in 2011.
However, when Strasburg signed his new extension, he was coming off a few extremely rough years, and the media actually said Washington was overpaying him. After just 11 starts in his rookie season, he blew out his elbow and required season-ending Tommy John surgery. When he returned in 2012, Strasburg’s pitch limit kept out from playing in the post-season. Even though he became the National’s all time strike out leader in 2016, Strasburg also racked up 7 stints on the disabled list.
Now, Strasburg is coming off one of the hottest seasons in his career, and his post-season numbers could easily earn a massive new contract. He’s 4-0 this post-season with a 1.93 ERA over four starts and one relief appearance. He’s clocked 40 strikeouts and just two walks over 28 innings, and the Nationals have won all four of his starts.
Based on Boras’ interview with Buster Olney on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight,” podcast in 2016, this exact high profile opt-out at the end of 2019 was always the plan.
Boaras said, “The goal that I foresaw was that Stephen Strasburg will be a true free agent once he has the innings and the performance record to illustrate to owners three or four years from now that he is the elite pitcher. I think for me, how I define a negotiation is that there is a value for Stephen Strasburg in potential leverage and there is a much higher value for Stephen Strasburg at star leverage. And these next three or four seasons of Stephen’s performance will place him in that star category.”