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Stephen Strasburg avoids arbitration, signs one-year deal worth $3.9 million

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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(USA Today)

The arbitration deadline is Jan. 17, which means teams, agents and arbitration eligible players have less than one week to exchange salary figures or reach an agreement before hearings begin in February. That means we’re likely to see a flurry of activity over the next six days as teams and players try to reach agreements before the deadline.

Among the first to avoid arbitration is one of the biggest names eligible. That would be Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg,who agreed on a one-year deal worth $3.975 million on Friday.

The base salary represents a minimal raise from his $3.9 million salary in 2013, which was the final year of his rookie contract. But as CBS Sports Jon Heyman reported and Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post later confirmed, the deal will include unspecified performance bonuses. Assuming Strasburg stays healthy, the number will easily surpass $4 million.

The Nationals own Strasburg's rights through the 2016 season, so there was little urgency to work out a longer term contract on their side. Of course, there's risk in going short-term as Strasburg's value figures to increase with each passing season.

In 2012, Strasburg posted a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts in his first season following Tommy John surgery. He was even better in 2013, posting a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts. Another similar or improved season in 2014 would likely result in Strasburg's agent, Scott Boras, looking for a big raise in arbitration, but the Nationals probably want to see one more healthy and productive season before committing a massive contract.

Strasburg, on the other hand, could have given himself more security with a longer term deal, but he's gambling on his ability to stay healthy. It's a little bit risk and a little bit reward on both sides, and it could make his 2014 performance pivotal in determining his future with the Nationals.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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