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Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg vs Aroldis Chapman...Did Strasburg Get Robbed?

Before the '09 Draft took place, Scott "Maximum" Boras was constantly comparing then-20-year-old SDSU starter Stephen Strasburg to international free agent pitchers like Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka or Havana, Cuba's own righty Jose Contreras for a reason, as the high profile agent negotiated through the press with the Washington Nationals, holders on the no.1 pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Boras' reasons became clear on Sunday when Cuban-born left-hander Aroldis Chapman, 22, signed for 5-years and $30 million dollars with the Cincinnati Reds, (according to most reports), doubling the record-setting contract the Washington Nationals gave to Strasburg, which was the largest contract ever given to a draft pick...

Jose Conteras was a 31-year-old free agent who'd had a long career in Cuba before he signed for 4-years/$32 million with the New York Yankees in 2003. Daisuke Matsuzaka, after a relatively brief but distinguished career in Japan, signed with the Boston Red Sox for 6-years and $52 million dollars, with incentives that could have given the 26-year-old right-hander as much as $60 million dollars over the course of the deal. (And that's to say nothing of the $51M+ Boston paid Matsuzaka's Japanese team for exclusive negotiating rights.) 

The Nationals, however, argued that Strasburg could not be considered alongside Contreras and Matsuzaka. DC GM Mike Rizzo was quoted in an article by Tim Keown* arguing that Strasburg was, " different from anyone else who's been drafted No.1," and downplaying the idea of Strasburg receiving what was often referred to as a "Matsuzaka-like" deal, by arguing that, "Daisuke Matsuzaka was a nine-year professional when he came here." 

Nationals' team President Stan Kasten further explained the team's position in an article with Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin entitled, "Kasten on 'Silly' Strasburg Speculation":

"'A hundred years of baseball and four decades of collective bargaining have shown how you develop players and how they proceed through the system,' Kasten said. 'There's a time for drafting, a time for development, a time for arbitration and a time for free agency. No one situation can change the whole sport, even less so these days, with where the economy is now.

"'We're certainly eager and planning to take the best player that we can,' he said, 'and we know what number-one picks get, and we intend to sign our number-one pick.'"

The Nationals drafted and signed Strasburg who'd played 3 years in the NCAA's Mountain West Conference with the San Diego State University Aztecs, and pitched for the US Olympic team in the 2008 Olympics in China, to a 4-year/$15.1 million dollar deal. Six months later, Aroldis Chapman, whose resume includes play in Cuba and internationally with the Cuban National team, who is unbound by the precedents set by previous drafts which in part determined Strasburg's contract, (and again, Strasburg got a record-breaking deal), receives 5-years and $30 million dollars, the kind of deal Strasburg will only have available to him after he completes his first contract and goes through three years of arbitration, which could also be put off a year if Washington holds him out of the Majors until June 2010, delaying the start of his major league service.**

Was Scott Boras right? Did Stephen Strasburg deserve a bigger deal? Did the Nationals actually get Strasburg at a discount? Are US-born or draft-eligible players being unfairly punished, or if not punished, deprived, simply because they've been born in North America? I'm starting to think Mr. Boras had a point...Is there any reason Aroldis Chapman deserved to get nearly twice as much as Stephen Strasburg received?

(ed. note - " * = Quotes taken from previous Federal post, as's Tim Keown's article has disappeared from the internets...** = contract information from Nationals Farm Authority post entitled, 'Strasburg Contract Details'.")