Included in the 7-year/$175M extension Stephen Strasburg signed with Washington’s Nationals in 2016 were two opt-outs which allow the pitcher to potentially test free agency after the 2019 and 2020 campaigns.
Should he choose to remain in the nation’s capital, Strasburg, now 31, has four years and $100M, much of it deferred, remaining on the deal, but through 29 starts this season, the right-hander has put up a 3.50 ERA, a 3.20 FIP, 222 Ks, and a .215/.273/.354 line against in 185 innings pitched, over which he’s been worth 5.2 fWAR, 8th best among pitchers in the majors, so, of course, there is plenty of chatter about him potentially opting out and either testing the free agent market this winter or signing a new extension with the Nats.
MLB.com’s Jon Morosi wrote last week that while, “... one source made clear Strasburg has not made any firm decisions about his future, there’s increasing speculation in the industry that he will opt out of the remaining four years and $100 million left on his contract with the Nationals -- or at least leverage that possibility into getting a new, larger contract.”
The question, Morosi suggested, is whether Strasburg, “... could top the $25 million average annual value on his current contract.”
If he plays out the remaining years on the deal, Strasburg will earn $25M in 2020, $15M in 2021-22, and $45M in 2023, though $70M of the remaining $100M is deferred, to be paid out in annual installments of $10 million between 2024-30, as noted in the breakdown of the deal at Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
As Strasburg’s agent, Scott Boras, noted when the extension was announced, the opt-outs were included so he would have a shot to test free agency in his early 30s if he chose to.
“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 after the extension was announced in May of 2016.
”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.”
“It was part of the negotiation and this is the first one I’ve ever done,” Rizzo said at the time, of a contract including opt-outs.
“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.”
So, does Rizzo think Strasburg is going to opt out this winter? He was asked that question in his weekly interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this morning.
“He’s had a terrific season for us,” Rizzo said. “He’s been a great National and we think and I know that he is comfortable here. He loves it here in Washington, D.C. He’s sold his place in San Diego and lives here full-time and he’s a Washingtonian.
”He negotiated that aspect of the contract into his contract, and he has every right to contemplate opting out, if he were inclined to do so. But we love having him here.
“I think he likes being here, and he’s made this his home, so we’ll have those discussions after the season and see what his thought process is.
”But I like — every time Stras is on the mound, I think I like our chances to win that game. I think he likes it here, and I think he loves his teammates and the atmosphere that we have here and I’m confident that he’ll be a National.”