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Top first-half story of 2016: Nationals sign Stephen Strasburg to 7-year/$175M extension

Was there a bigger story in the first half of the 2016 campaign than the Washington Nationals and Stephen Strasburg agreeing on a 7-year/$175M extension? Maybe the start that Strasburg has gotten off to in the first year of that deal...

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With his win in New York last Friday, Stephen Strasburg improved to (12-0) in 16 starts this season, with a 2.62 ERA, a 2.97 FIP, 31 walks (2.62 BB/9), 132 Ks (11.14 K/9) and a .199/.264/.320 line against in 106 ⅔ innings pitched.

Strasburg extended his personal winning streak to 15-straight starts in that outing against the Mets, which is tied for the second-longest unbeaten streak by a starting pitcher in Washington, D.C. baseball history with Senators' right-hander General Crowder, who won fifteen straight starts between August 1932 and April 1933.

"I heard before that different little things would bother him. If it was raining or if it was hot, or a rain delay or don't get the bunt down, but now he seems -- his demeanor is almost boring... He's pleasantly boring." -Dusty Baker on Stephen Strasburg's success so far in 2016

Strasburg now trails only Senators' right-hander Firpo Marberry, who won 17 straight between June of 1930 and July of 1931, for the longest winning streak.

He's the first National League pitcher since 1913 to start a season (12-0) and, according to the Nationals and Elias Sports Bureau, he's just the fourth pitch in MLB history to go (12-0) before the All-Star Break, joining Baltimore Orioles' left-hander Dave McNally (13-0 in 1969), PIttsburgh Pirates' reliever Roy Face (12-0 in 1959) and Cincinnati Reds' reliever Brooks Lawrence (12-0 in 1956) as the only four pitchers who've managed to put together that kind of first half.

His on-field success would be enough for Strasburg to qualify as the top story of the first half of the Washington Nationals' 2016 campaign, but he also made headlines when he shocked the baseball world and decided to forego a chance at free agency this winter by agreeing to a 7-year/$175M extension with the Nats, who drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2009, developed him and helped him recover after Tommy John surgery in 2010.

That last part, and the fact that the Nationals chose to look out for Strasburg's best interests when they shut him down on the way to the postseason in 2012, played a role in the right-hander's decision-making in the end, even if he wasn't totally on board with the idea at the start.

"As a competitor it was a very tough pill to swallow," Strasburg told reporters after signing the extension, "but at the end of the day you have to really look at what their intentions are. I think their intentions are that it's an investment.

"They want me to be here pitching at a high level for a long time. Hopefully with this group of guys, we can have more opportunities to be in that spot again."

Asked if he felt an obligation to the Nationals after the way the handled him, Strasburg said it was a relationship that grew over his seven seasons in the majors.

"At the end of the day you have to really look at what their intentions are. I think their intentions are that it's an investment. They want me to be here pitching at a high level for a long time." -Stephen Strasburg on signing extension with the Nationals

"It was something that happened slowly and over time, but there were a lot of situations in the past that looking back on it, they took great care of me and not just as a pitcher, but as a person and I think what they believe in and what I believe in kind of coincide, so it seemed like just a great fit for me and my family."

Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was asked if he was surprised that a Scott Boras client decided to sign before getting a chance to test the free agent market. He said the decision was "player-driven" in the end.

"We had a discussion with Scott and I think Scott, he works for the players and I think this was player-driven," Rizzo explained.

"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."

That deal also includes opt-outs after the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, which is something both Rizzo and Boras said was an important part of getting the extension done.

"It was part of the negotiation and this is the first one I've ever done. It seems to be the en vogue kind of ingredient to get a long-term deal with really good players. So we agreed to it and I think the contract is structured as such that it's to the benefit of both parties."

"I think that with the give and go of the economic process, the best thing I could do -- my theory on this negotiation was, it's no different than preparing Max [Scherzer] for 30-year-old free agency," Boras told reporters.

"He's developing his pitches. He's becoming the statured pitcher that we all expect Stephen Strasburg to be.

"He's healthy and he's going to have the same right that Max or David Price or [Zack] Greinke or [Matt] Harvey or [Jake] Arrieta or [Gerrit] Cole all these guys have at 30 or 31.

"They're going to have that right to look into the free agent world," Boras continued.

"The other thing is we have the economics of the game, which are dramatically changing, so to have him have the ability to look at that not only in one year but in two was a very important part of that contract."

The two sides got the deal done, and as Rizzo said, if it didn't get done when it did, it probably wouldn't have happened.

"I think it would have happened now or it would not have happened," he explained.

"So to lock up a Strasburg, a Scherzer and have capable young pitchers like a [Joe] Ross, [Tanner] Roark and guys on the way like [Lucas] Giolito and have a Gio Gonzalez for multiple years, so we feel good about where we're at as far as roster construction."

With $175M guaranteed, a chance to test free agency in a few years if he wants to and the first half Strasburg's put together so far, everyone's got to be happy with the way things have worked out so far.