Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals agreed on a seven-year, $175 million contract Monday, a league source told Yahoo Sports, wedding perhaps the most hyped pitching prospect in history to the team that drafted him and saw him through a controversial shutdown after his Tommy John surgery.
The news, first reported by The Washington Post, shocked a baseball industry that had expected Strasburg, 27, to test free agency this offseason. Instead, Strasburg agreed to a contract that makes him among the 10 highest-paid pitchers in history despite the injury issues that have limited him to just one 200-inning-plus season.
Strasburg was in the midst of his worst start of the season when the news of the deal, which a source said includes an opt-out after the third or fourth season, broke. The deal also includes a $1 million bonus for each year he throws at least 180 innings, the source said. Strasburg entered Monday’s game with a 2.36 ERA, 47 strikeouts and nine walks in 42 innings and just one home run allowed.
Finally Strasburg was beginning to resemble the player on whom the Nationals lavished a $15 million bonus after choosing him first overall in the 2009 draft. Strasburg was a 102-mph-throwing phenom out of San Diego State, and his 14-strikeout debut a year later validated much of the hoopla.
Then the ulnar collateral ligament in Strasburg’s right elbow blew out, ending his first season and canceling most of the next because of his recovery from Tommy John surgery. In 2012, his first full season back, the Nationals shut Strasburg down short of the 160-inning mark and went into the playoffs without his services.
Despite having the best record in baseball, they lost in the first round of the playoffs. Since then, Strasburg has tantalized with a high-90s fastball and frontline breaking ball and changeup but not posted an ERA below 3.00. The Nationals are betting as much on future performance as past – a tricky wager seeing as they’re the franchise that has publicly said they fear the health of Tommy John pitchers after their seventh year post-op. Strasburg’s seventh year is next season.