When he spoke to reporters at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee in early December, Washington Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters he expected that at some point in the future he and 27-year-old, 2009 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg would talk about a long-term extension.
Strasburg is set to become a free agent after the 2016 campaign unless he and the Nats agree on a contract extension before then, though according to a report by FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi tonight, the two sides aren't actively discussing a long-term deal.
"We've always tried to think about our core players, to extend them to contracts," Rizzo said. "We tried it with several of the players that have left us for free agency in the past. I would conceive we would do the same for him."
Asked at Nationals WinterFest if he had any thoughts about signing on to stay in Washington, D.C. beyond this season, Strasburg said that he was more focused on what he can control on the mound.
"I've found with pitching that I pitch better, I don't stress out as much, if I just focus on the now," he explained.
"And I'm just going to focus on what I've got going on tomorrow, which is another day here at FanFest, but especially in Spring Training, getting ready for the season, take it one start at a time, one pitch at a time.
"Really just give it everything I can this next season and see what happens. So, not going to look too far ahead or look too far in the past either."
A reporter asked if it was hard not to think about free agency now that it's one season away? Is it possible it can be a distraction?
"If you let it," Strasburg said. "If that's what's important. But I went into this game, as a kid, wanting to play the game because I loved to play, because I'm competitive, because I want to win. With this team, we have, obviously, the potential to win and do a lot of good things, so I'm just going to focus on that and winning cures a lot of things, so I'm just going to do everything in my power to get better and help this team win some games and when the time comes to make decisions, it will happen."
As FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi reported tonight, "Strasburg’s agent, Scott Boras, confirmed to FOX Sports on Monday that the sides aren’t in active talks about a contract extension as spring training begins," and, "it’s highly unlikely that will change before the season is over.":
"We amicably agreed to a one-year deal (for 2016)," Boras said. "He’s going to pitch, and we’ll see where it goes from there. It’s something we’ll be discussing at the end of the year."
Strasburg and the Nationals avoided arbitration when he signed a 1-year/$10.4M deal for 2016 on January 16th after the right-hander went (11-7) in 23 starts last season, with a 3.46 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 26 walks (1.84 BB/9) and 155 Ks (10.96 K/9) in 127 ⅓ innings pitched, holding opposing hitters to a combined .233/.278/.375 line.
Though he struggled with ankle and oblique injuries in 2015, Strasburg finished strong after returning from his first DL stint of the season and was dominant, with a 1.90 ERA, a 2.09 FIP, eight walks (1.09 BB/9), 92 Ks (12.48 K/9) and a .177/.206/.306 line against in his final 66 ⅓ IP in the second half of his fifth season after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010.
Boras praised the Nationals' handling of that situation, including the decision to shut the starter down when they were headed for the postseason in 2012, which has put Strasburg in the position he finds himself in one season away from free agency.
"The Nationals have done a great job with him," Boras said. "They’ve listened to the doctors, and all you can ask of a team is that they listen to the doctors. They have. Stephen and the team have benefited from that."
Will the way the Nationals handled the situation help when it comes to negotiating a potential deal? Are the Nationals reluctant to sign a pitcher on his "second elbow" to a long-term deal as Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell wrote last Spring when discussing Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann's future?
Zimmermann was allowed to walk as a free agent, agreeing on a 5-year/$110M deal in November, which made him the first post-Tommy John starter to get over $100M in free agency.
Will Strasburg follow Zimmermann out of the nation's capital next winter in what's going to be a weaker market for starting pitching?