According to multiple reports on Monday night, the Washington Nationals signed potential free agent starter Stephen Strasburg to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension, which includes a "rolling opt-out" for the player, meaning he could exercise the opt-out at different times during the contract -- but not until after the third year.
Everyone in the media -- local and national (including yours truly) -- figured Strasburg would test the free agent market at the conclusion of this season. Now, that's off the table and Strasburg will pull on the Curly W for the foreseeable future, providing the Nats with a formidable starting rotation led by Strasburg and Max Scherzer, with top-of-the-rotation prospect Lucas Giolito knocking on the door, and quality starters Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross and Tanner Roark providing depth.
The length and term are, of course, significant. If the numbers are accurate, it's the largest contract given out to a Tommy John survivor, beating out former teammate Jordan Zimmermann's deal last offseason.
But Strasburg would have -- far and away -- been the best pitcher on the free agent market this year and $175M would have been the absolute bottom of the market for him -- and the contract could have eclipsed the $200 million mark.
The Zimmermann deal might have had more impact on Strasburg's situation than just money. In meeting with the D.C. media in his first return to the stadium after signing his deal with the Tigers before Monday night's game, Zimmermann talked about the impact his TJ surgery had on his standing in the market.
Obviously, Strasburg and Zimmermann were close from their years on the Nats and presumably talked about Zimmermann's free agent experience over the offseason. Could that have had impact on the contract talks?
Another interesting aspect of this deal is that it's the first time since Jered Weaver in 2012 that a Scott Boras pitching client signed a contract extension before his deal ended in free agency. As mentioned, everyone figured that Strasburg would test the market, especially in such a weak class. But it's a testament to the player that he wanted to stay, and has reportedly taken what appears to be a slightly below-market value deal to do just that.
Of course, no discussion about contract extensions and Scott Boras clients can be held without discussing how this might impact the Bryce Harper negotiations.
No one knows, of course. And I suppose the real first order of business is the Lerners finally picking up Mike Rizzo's contract option through 2018, with an awaiting deadline of June 15. Once that is out of the way, Rizzo can concentrate on the process of formulating a contract extension for Harper. Nothing he does in the next two years could be more important.
We shouldn't get carried away. Harper isn't a free agent for 2 1/2 more seasons. But there's no reason now not to buy out Harper's remaining arbitration years and make him the highest paid player in the game. With health, it's inevitable anyway. It's just a question if the Lerners do it here or they allow Harper to test the market after the '18 season.
Regardless, with Strasburg and Scherzer under long-term contracts, Gonzalez with a team option for next year and vesting option for '18, and Ross, Roark and Giolito under team control, the Nats starting rotation is set and as solid long-term as any in the league.