Stephen Strasburg retires after years of injury struggles and months-long standoff with Nationals

Stephen Strasburg was already finished pitching for the Nationals, but now he's retired. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Stephen Strasburg is calling it a career. For real this time.

The longtime Washington Nationals starting pitcher is retiring after a years-long struggle to pitch again due to injuries. The news was first reported by The Washington Post and MASN's Mark Zuckerman. MLB's transaction log also shows Strasburg to have retired.

Strasburg himself released a statement Sunday morning announcing his decision to hang up his glove and cleats.

Today, I am announcing my retirement from the game I love. I realized after repeated attempts to return to pitching, injuries no longer allow me to perform at a Major League level.

As a young kid, all I dreamt about was winning a World Series. Thanks to the many coaches, teammates, and medical staff, my boyhood dream came true in 2019. Despite this being a personal goal of mine, I've come to realize how truly important and special that moment was for so many fans in the DMV. Your unwavering support through all the ups and downs will always mean the world to me.

I'd also like to thank the late Ted Lerner and family for giving me the chance to wear the curly W all these years. Although I will always wish there were more games to be pitched, I find comfort knowing I left it all out there for the only team I've known. My family and I are truly fortunate and blessed to have experienced this baseball journey in the Nation's Capitol.

As always, Go Nats! #37
Stephen Strasburg

The Nationals have also announced Strasburg's retirement, which is significant given the false start in August. Strasburg was initially reported by the Post to be calling it a career last summer, with plans for a news conference at Nationals Park in September, but those plans were quietly canceled at the last minute.

It soon became clear that Strasburg and the Nationals hadn't reached an agreement on a settlement for the remainder of his seven-year, $245 million contract. Players usually get most of what they are owed, as they could keep playing (or trying to) until the team releases them, but this was a trickier situation than usual due to the amount of money owed to Strasburg and the Nationals' lack of insurance on his contract, which usually mitigates long-term injury risk.

Now, seven months later, the two sides have reportedly reached an agreement on a retirement that was already apparent. Per The Post, Strasburg agreed to defer some of his remaining salary, though the exact terms haven't been reported.

Stephen Strasburg's body broke down after 2019 World Series MVP

Strasburg had been trending toward a painful retirement since he won World Series MVP in 2019, which wound up being the apex of his career. The former phenom exited his second start of 2020 and missed the rest of the season due to a nerve issue. He returned in 2021, made two starts, hit the IL due to shoulder inflammation, returned again, made three starts and then hit the IL due to a neck strain.

The death knell of Strasburg's career arrived on July 27, 2021, when he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. The rare shoulder issue is something pitchers rarely come back from, and even fewer reach 100 percent again. Strasburg made only one more start in his career, in 2023, before immediately returning to the IL due to a rib injury.

After the first retirement fell through, Strasburg still had a locker at Nationals spring training, but he did not report after reportedly suffering a setback in his rehab. The second retirement came a couple of months later.

Strasburg signed that $245 million contract in the 2019 offseason and returned to the Nationals. He ended up making eight more starts in his career, with a 6.89 ERA. There might not be a more disastrous contract in the history of baseball.

Stephen Strasburg is still an enormous figure in Nationals history

The Nationals' history in Washington D.C. will go on, but for now, it's impossible to tell the story of the franchise without including Strasburg.

The right-hander was anointed the moribund franchise's savior the second he was drafted first overall in the 2009 MLB Draft after months of hype as possibly the best pitching prospect the draft had ever seen. The hype continued in his brief minor-league career and peaked with his electric MLB debut in 2010, in which he struck out 14 to break Washington's single-game strikeout record.

Only 11 starts later, Strasburg was derailed by Tommy John surgery. His fastball never reached the regular triple-digit heat of his rookie year again.

Controversy followed Strasburg throughout his career, thanks to concerns about his long-term health due to his pitching mechanics. The Nationals caught mountains of flak for shutting him down in 2012 despite being well on track for the playoffs. But general manager Mike Rizzo stuck by his decision to impose a precautionary innings limit on Strasburg.

The reward was a pitcher who threw at least 125 innings each of the next seven seasons, but rarely without an injury here and there. Strasburg did cross 200 innings in 2014 and 2019, though, and his prime didn't look dissimilar from a lot of modern pitchers from a health standpoint.

The Nationals simply couldn't have won the 2019 World Series without Strasburg, who posted a 1.98 ERA in six appearances (five starts), including two brilliant starts against the Houston Astros in the Fall Classic. After he pitched a career high in innings that season, the Nationals were sold on his having finally become the kind of reliable pitcher they'd always hoped for.

Instead, he became yet one more cautionary tale against betting hundreds of millions of dollars on pitchers, especially the guys who appear to use maximum effort to light up the radar gun.