Jon Morosi reported earlier this month that Stephen Strasburg’s agent, Scott Boras "confirmed to FOX Sports" that the Washington Nationals and their 27-year-old right-hander, who is set to become a free agent after the 2016 campaign, were not, "in active talks about a contract extension as Spring Training [began]," and, according to Boras, it was, "highly unlikely" that anything would, "change before the season is over."
Strasburg and the Nationals avoided arbitration when they agreed on a 1-year/$10.4M deal in January. Beyond that?:
"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."
Last season, Strasburg suffered an ankle injury in Spring Training which, the Nationals believe, led to back issues that threw off his mechanics early, but the '09 no.1 overall pick finished strong after two DL stints, putting up 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 the final 66 ⅓ innings of his sixth major league season.
"I felt like I got more consistent with my mechanics and started to understand my mechanics a little bit better," he told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier in an interview this afternoon when asked about his run of strong starts.
"But that's going to be an ongoing process," he said, "so I'm not going to read into the numbers because I've learned already that there are days that you feel like you're really good and they're just hitting you all over the yard and some days where you're not as good and you're somehow getting outs, so you just try to keep the approach the same."
"It was tough, you know, looking back on it," Strasburg said, of the issues he dealt with early and overcame. "I don't think I have any regrets, because I think the struggles made me a better pitcher in the long-run, but at the same time, I look back and say, 'Wow, if only I took a couple of weeks off to start, probably wouldn't have missed as much time.' But it's all water under the bridge, so I'm just excited to get into the season healthy and ready to go."
Asked what the key was to avoiding the distraction of thinking ahead to free agency and trying to set himself up as well as possible if it comes to that, Strasburg said that it's a matter of what you're focused on.
"It just depends on where your heart is," he explained. "Why are you playing this game? And I don't think I ever played this game for the financial aspirations. We're very blessed with the salaries that we make across the board, but as a competitor, I want to win and I know every single other guy in this clubhouse wants to win just as bad as I do, so we're going to focus on that and we're going to give it everything we have and take whatever happens."
After struggling early, bouncing back and then undergoing surgery this winter to remove a non-cancerous growth from his back once the season was over, Strasburg talked about going into this season comfortable, finally, and able to just concentrate on what he needs to do on the mound.
"I think with experience you do get a little more comfortable because you start to understand how you tick," Strasburg said.
"I think that's the thing, is I feel like I tried to go out there too much and just out-stuff guys, if that makes any sense, just throw a fastball by them every time, buckle them with the breaking ball every time and these hitters," he said, " they're professionals so they make adjustments and I didn't really feel like I understood how to make those adjustments fast enough the first few years and sitting down talking to [Steve McCatty] last year when it just got bad enough to where I need to do something and talking to Max [Scherzer] through it all, it really started to open up how I tick and what makes me successful."
In a separate interview on 106.7 the FAN this afternoon, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was asked about Strasburg going into his walk year and the possibility of the two sides agreeing on an extension that could keep him in D.C. beyond this season.
"These guys earned their free agency by being successful major leaguers for six major league seasons," Rizzo said.
"Strasburg is at the cusp of becoming a free agent. We've always had a good working relationship with Stras, he's been a good asset to the organization. We certainly are going to have overtures and discussions with him to try to keep him here, but as we've seen in the past it takes two to tango, and it takes two to make it a deal. We're going to make him a good, market-value offer at some time either in the offseason or during the season.
"Stras has been receptive to it. He loves it here. He loves the fan base, he loves the city of D.C. and he, like a lot of our other players, are guys that we drafted, signed and developed and we are working hard to see if we can keep them here in the long-term."
So they're not done talking about a potential deal?
"Talks aren't done," Rizzo said.
"We're just barely scratching the surface in communications and it's so early in the process that it's something that we haven't really delved into very deeply yet."