World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg to opt out of contract, hit free agency

Jack BaerYahoo Sports Contributor

It was a joyous day for the Washington Nationals with their World Series parade, but it wasn’t without some bad, though not surprising, news.

As expected, World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg has decided to opt out of the four years and $100 million remaining on his contract and hit free agency, according to multiple reports Saturday.

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Opting out of his contract doesn’t mean Strasburg will definitely leave the Nationals, it just means he (rightfully) thinks he can do better than the $100 million still owed to him from the seven-year, $175 million extension he signed in 2016.

Strasburg figures to be one of the biggest fishes in free agency this winter alongside teammate Anthony Rendon and Houston Astros ace Gerrit Cole. The Nationals seem likely to be a top contender to retain his services, but will definitely have some competition.

Strasburg coming off incredible postseason performance

There will likely never be a better time for Strasburg to test the market.

Strasburg posted a 3.32 ERA in the regular season in an NL-leading 209 innings, with 251 strikeouts and a 1.038 WHIP. He was even better in the postseason, in which the Nationals went 5-0 in his starts while he registered a 1.98 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 36.1 innings.

Most importantly, the 31-year-old stepped up in the World Series against the best offense in baseball, the Houston Astros. He held things together in Game 2 until the Nationals’ bats broke out for a 12-3 win, then pitched into the ninth inning of a must-win Game 6. Those two starts gave Strasburg the honor of World Series MVP despite a number of deserving Nationals.

Stephen Strasburg is hitting the market after a career year. (Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Stephen Strasburg is hitting the market after a career year. (Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft, Strasburg has been among the most talented pitchers in baseball since his debut in 2010. However, he learned how to maximize that talent in 2019 by abandoning his slider, throwing his curveball more than ever and mixing in a sinker alongside his four-seamer.

Basically, with Strasburg you have a bona fide ace with nasty stuff and a proven postseason track record. Even with some past injury issues (you may have heard about his Tommy John surgery recovery), that’s still the kind of player worth easily more than the $100 million he already had guaranteed from the Nats.

Who could sign Stephen Strasburg?

The list of teams that are a fit for Strasburg is basically “teams that are willing to spend and need starting pitching,” which could also be shortened to just “teams that are willing to spend.” As the 2019 Nationals showed, it’s borderline impossible to have too much top-end rotation depth these days.

Given that Strasburg has appeared comfortable for the last decade in D.C., the Nationals figure to have a strong shot at re-signing him if they’re willing to pony up what he’s worth following a World Series win. Of course, keeping Rendon might be a higher and more expensive priority.

As for the rest of the field, Strasburg should have a number of suitors and will likely only be trumped by Cole in guaranteed money among pitchers this offseason. It’s not insignificant that Strasburg grew up in San Diego and could favor Southern California, but we’ll see who ends up making the biggest bid.

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