The biggest surprise to come out of Tuesday afternoon's press conference announcing Stephen Strasburg's long-term extension was probably the revelation that the two sides had been quietly working out a deal since Spring Training.
With Strasburg set to become a free agent after this season if no deal was in place, it seemed likely that the 27-year-old, '09 No. 1 overall pick would leave the organization that drafted and developed him after the 2016 campaign next winter.
"This was something that was kind of set in stone for almost two weeks now," Strasburg told reporters in Nationals Park during the press conference announcing the deal, which is reportedly a 7-year/$175M extension that includes opt-outs after the third and fourth years of the contract.
"I guess your secret is safe with me," Strasburg joked.
"In the last couple of days we knew something was imminent," GM Mike Rizzo explained.
"We were a little worried that things might leak out when Stephen secretly left Kansas City and took a physical and when he made it back unnoticed, we figured we'd keep it a secret even longer."
"In New York City, you'd have no chance," Strasburg's agent Scott Boras joked when he spoke after the press conference.
"D.C. is a town of secrets, no doubt about it."
Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker joked later on Tuesday afternoon that pretty much no one noticed that Strasburg snuck away from Kansas City.
"I just told him that he'd make a great Marine because he can keep a secret," Baker said. He did, however, add that Strasburg didn't really "sneak" out of Missouri.
"You guys just didn't miss him," Baker chided the gathered media members.
"That's the kind of guy he is. I think only one of his teammates missed him. Michael Taylor I think is the only one who missed him, I think, until he got back and then, 'Where have you been?'"
Strasburg said it wasn't until his start on Monday night was over that he finally realized word had gotten out, when he heard the crowd rise to give him an ovation after a walk to Miguel Cabrera ended his outing in the top of the eighth.
"To be honest, I mean I heard [the ovation]," Strasburg said, "but I was a little frustrated that I walked 'Miggy' on four pitches, so... I heard one fan above the dugout say, 'Congrats,' just kind of subtle and kind of just a light bulb went off and then after the game when I checked my phone there was a million text messages so that's when I realized it happened."
Strasburg was asked why he decided to sign on to stay in the nation's capital when the conventional wisdom was that he would test the market in what's expected to be a weak free agent pitching class.
"I think from day one, when I first signed here, it was a very new experience for me," Strasburg explained.
"Being from Southern California, that was something that I knew. But over the last few years, the city of D.C. has really grown on my family and we're very, very comfortable here and to see the commitment not only to the players they bring in but the guys that they draft, it's a lot of high character guys. A lot of guys with a lot of talent.
"I really feel like this organization is going to be winning and succeeding for many years to come and I definitely want to be a part of that."
Both Rizzo and Boras noted that in this case, as Strasburg said, the agreement was player-driven, with Strasburg and his family, including his wife, Rachel, interested in getting a deal done after the Nationals expressed interest in working something out.
"My job, I work at the privilege of Stephen and Rachel Strasburg and so every year we meet in Southern California, over the ocean, and have that moonlight dinner and the Strasburgs pretty much give me the road map to what they want to do and such," Boras said.
"In this situation, Mr. Lerner called me and told me he had interest in advancing with Stephen and I communicated that to Stephen and Rachel and certainly there was a will on both sides and I think we were able to execute something that both sides are very happy with."
"We had a discussion with Scott and I think Scott, he works for the players and I think this was player-driven," Rizzo said.
"I think that Stephen wanted to be here and he expressed that interest to Scott and we hammered out the best deal that we could."
Boras talked to reporters about how things were worked out.
"[Rizzo] and I do the arbitration 'gate'," he said, "and after we throw away our boxing shorts and gloves for an hour or so, [Nationals owner] Ted [Lerner] gave me a call and said -- because they were in Palm Springs at that time, so -- he tells me, 'Come out and look at some art.' Of course, they have beautiful art in their house. We spent four or five dinners and trips of me driving from my office out to Palm Springs to have meetings and talk about it through Spring Training and then a little bit into the season."
Rizzo said there was some comfort in knowing the deal was done and Strasburg was locked up and part of the Nats' rotation for the foreseeable future.
"It gives everybody a lot more comfort. I think it would have happened now or it would not have happened," he said.
"This thing started in Spring Training and I was asked the question a couple weeks ago, 'Do we mind negotiating during the season,' and we never want to close a door on anything, so this one trickled into the regular season, but I think if it wouldn't have gotten done relatively soon in the season it would not have gotten done."
Boras agreed with that assessment, that if it didn't get done now it might now have gotten done.
"Yeah, I think, for the idea, we kind of gave it a shorter window to kind of make a decision on both sides," Boras explained.
"Because Stephen really didn't want any part of this so I basically, once we got into significant areas obviously I had to involve him and I just said once we've gotten into this area and I [involve] him I don't want to have too many starts where he's thinking about contract [instead] of his performance and he didn't want that."
Strasburg said he was happy to let his agent do the negotiating for him and happy that it did get done.
"I pretty much told Scott to leave me along as much as possible. To be honest, it's hard to block out something like this.
"It's your future and it's your kids' kids' future, too. I think the one thing that kept me centered and kept me focused was 'Why do I play this game?' The bottom line is that I play this game because I'm a competitor. I love the guy next to me and I want to do everything I can to help this team win some games."
He said that he was happy to just get the deal done, once he made up his mind that it was what he wanted.
"I just really trusted my gut and trusted my heart and prayed about it and I think the timing felt right," Strasburg said.
"The grass isn't always greener on the other side. There was not much else that I was really needing than what's been given to me in this organization."