Stephen Strasburg returning to Nationals on 7-year, $245 million deal

Tim BrownMLB columnist

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg on Monday agreed to terms with the Washington Nationals on a seven-year, $245 million contract, according to sources, six weeks after opting out of the final four years of his contract with the Nationals.

There are no opt-outs or options in the contract, a source said. Some of the contract money is deferred. Gauged before the deferrals are assessed, the contract carries the highest average annual value — $35 million — for a pitcher and tops the prior record for total value for a pitcher — David Price’s $217 million — by $28 million. Those records are expected to be short-lived, as Gerrit Cole remains unsigned and is being pursued by the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels, among others.

After a regular season in which for the first time in five seasons (and the second time in his career) he made more than 30 starts and posted more than 200 innings, then followed that with a dominating postseason, Strasburg traded $100 million in guaranteed salary for his first chance, at 31, at free agency.

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Stephen Strasburg is re-signing with the Nationals, the only team he's ever known. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Stephen Strasburg is re-signing with the Nationals, the only team he's ever known. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

In five postseason starts and one relief appearance, Strasburg was 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA. In two World Series starts, both in Houston, he was 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA. In Game 6, as the Nationals faced elimination, he pitched into the ninth inning while allowing two runs, both in the first inning of that game. In October, Strasburg pitched three scoreless innings in relief in the Nationals’ wild card game victory, started Game 5 of the division series clincher against the Los Angeles Dodgers and threw seven innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in the third of a four-game National League championship series sweep, and across the month walked four batters and struck out 47.

In the regular season, he was 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA. He struck out 251 batters, second in the NL to Jacob deGrom’s 255.

After enduring a variety of injuries in the previous four seasons, including time missed for shoulder, elbow, back, neck and oblique ailments (he’d also sat out most of the 2011 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery), Strasburg held up for 235 1/3 innings in 2019, counting the postseason.

It is that Strasburg, and not the Strasburg who’d averaged 145 innings from 2015-18, who’d enter a market lean on front-end starters and in a sport hungry for them.

Among free-agent starters, he’d rate behind the 29-year-old Cole, a fellow Scott Boras client who was 20-5 with 326 strikeouts and a 2.50 ERA (and an exceptional postseason of his own) and ahead of 29-year-old Zack Wheeler, the former New York Mets right-hander who has never thrown 200 innings in a season.

The Nationals, who drafted Strasburg first overall in 2009, then famously refused to pitch him in the 2012 playoffs out of concern for his elbow, were expected to make an effort to re-sign him. The San Diego Padres, who committed $144 million to first baseman Eric Hosmer prior to the 2018 season, then $300 million to third baseman Manny Machado before the 2019 season, and finished last in the NL West both seasons, also were believed to have interest in Strasburg, along with Cole.

Five pitchers had previously drawn contracts with average annual values of at least $30 million. They are: Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, David Price, Clayton Kershaw (twice) and Max Scherzer.

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