Nationals' Stephen Strasburg increasingly likely to opt out of contract after 2019 season, report says

Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg decided to forgo free agency a few years back and signed a seven-year, $175 million extension to stay with the only professional organization he's known. A report indicates he might be exercising an opt-out clause this coming offseason. Via MLB.com's Jon Morosi

While one source made clear Strasburg has not made any firm decisions about his future, there's increasing speculation in the industry that he will opt out of the remaining four years and $100 million left on his contract with the Nationals -- or at least leverage that possibility into getting a new, larger contract.

This seems like a huge risk given how free agency has bottomed out for a few players these last two offseasons, though it must be said that the biggest names are still getting theirs, for the most part. 

Strasburg, 31, is 16-5 with a 3.47 ERA (135 ERA+), 1.04 WHIP and 215 strikeouts in 179 innings this season. He's got an outside shot the NL Cy Young and will certainly land some votes. He's also got a shot at his highest career WAR. He's at 5.2 right now and his best output was 6.4 in 2017. 

Something else to consider for Strasburg in what's increasingly a rough free agency environment is the starting pitching class. With a number of contenders either needing starting pitching or losing guys to free agency, bidding wars could help. On the flip side, would a crowded market send demand down to the point that guys aren't getting offers they deserve? It's possible. 

The following pitchers will be or might be free agents: 

  • Gerrit Cole is gonna get paid in a big way. He leads the majors with 266 strikeouts in 176 1/3 innings and has a 2.81 ERA.
  • Madison Bumgarner isn't what he used to be, but he has a 111 ERA+ and leads the NL with 181 2/3 innings. He's entering his age-30 season, so it's not like he's too old. For more on Bumgarner and all of these guys, really, check out Mike Axisa's excellent free agent power rankings.
  • Zack Wheeler had hit a rough patch, though he was good in his last two starts and was excellent last season. He's also entering his age-30 next season. 
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu had had a down last four starts, but he still leads the majors with a 2.45 ERA. 
  • Cole Hamels is 35 and inconsistent, but he's been mostly good for the Cubs and will certainly be good enough for a rotation spot next year. 
  • Dallas Keuchel got roughed up by free agency last year and bet on himself with a one-year deal this year. He's been good, pitching to a 3.72 ERA (125 ERA+) in 14 starts. 
  • Jake Odorizzi is 14-6 with a 3.61 ERA (125 ERA+) in 27 starts this year with 152 strikeouts in 142 innings. 
  • Corey Kluber has a $17.5 million club option for next season. The Indians not picking this up would've been unheard of before this season, but he had a 5.80 ERA in seven starts before his injury and they've been fine in the rotation without him. We've heard ownership cry poor before, so I'm declaring Kluber's free agency a possibility. 
  • Jose Quintana has an $11.5 million option that the Cubs almost certainly pick up, but you never know. He's been mostly good this year and is currently hot. The Cubs have won nine of his last 11 starts. He has a 3.08 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings in that span. 

That's a monster free agent starting pitching class, even without Kluber and Quintana. 

Will Strasburg join? Speculation apparently says it's increasingly likely. Stay tuned. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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