The Washington Nationals have spent the past month-plus celebrating their World Series victory. It appears they notched another victory on Monday by agreeing to terms with World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg, 31, will receive seven years and $245 million, per CBS Sports HQ's Jim Bowden, giving him the richest pitching contact in history both in terms of overall money and average annual value. The Nationals announced the deal on Monday evening.
Strasburg opted out of his contract with four years and $100 million remaining after arguably the best season of his career. He posted a 138 ERA+ and 4.48 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 209 regular-season innings, then upshifted during the postseason. Strasburg made six appearances for the Nationals in October, five of them starts, and tallied 36 innings, a 1.98 ERA, and 43 more strikeouts than walks. He held the opposition to a .607 OPS against. With all that momentum behind him, it was no wonder Strasburg opted to take his chances -- and now, it's clear that decision has paid off.
"We are very excited to welcome Stephen Strasburg and his family back to the Washington Nationals," Nationals owner Mark Lerner said in a statement. "His tremendous talent, work ethic and leadership have been a staple of our organization since the day we selected him in the 2009 MLB Draft. We would not have won the 2019 World Series or accomplished everything we have these last 10 seasons if not for Stephen's many contributions."
Strasburg entered the winter ranked as our No. 3 free agent on the market. Here's what we wrote:
Strasburg, similarly, checks almost all of the boxes. He has three plus-or-better offerings, including perhaps the best changeup in baseball, and has already adjusted to life at a lower velocity by leaning more on his curveball. The only way Strasburg falls short of Cole is durability -- he just recorded his first 200-plus inning season since 2014, having been limited to fewer than 180 innings in each of the interim four years
Here are four things to know about the biggest free-agent signing of the offseason (so far):
1. It's a record-breaking deal ...
Strasburg's contract is the most lucrative ever signed by a pitcher. Previously, David Price's $217 million deal with the Boston Red Sox had been the richest, while just three others -- Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, and Zack Greinke -- had topped $200 million. Obviously Strasburg's deal comes with the caveat that he's unlikely to remain on top for long. Gerrit Cole is expected to sign for at least $245 million. We had Cole ranked above Strasburg due to durability and his age, so this should only help Cole ask for more coin.
2. ... that comes with an asterisk
The Nationals are notorious for including deferrals in their big-dollar contracts -- it's part of the reason why Bryce Harper sought out a new home last winter instead of accepting Washington's offer. Strasburg was evidently more willing to play ball, however, as more than $80 million will be deferred, per USA Today's Bob Nightengale. That lowers the present-day value of the deal.
3. What does this mean for Rendon?
League sources had already indicated to CBS Sports prior to Monday that third baseman Anthony Rendon was expected to sign elsewhere. The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers, among others, are among his top potential suitors. As such, the Nationals will need to find a new third baseman between now and spring. That could be as easy as signing Josh Donaldson, who is considered the next-best alternative.
4. The Nationals have more work to do
In addition to solving third base, the Nationals also need to address first base and/or second base, as well as their bullpen. The Nationals have already re-signed Howie Kendrick, and could ostensibly bring back Ryan Zimmerman and/or Asdrubal Cabrera. As for their relief situation, Washington signed minor-league free-agent Kyle Finnegan to a big-league deal this week. He was considered a coveted minor-league free agent thanks to his track record and fastball-splitter combination. Obviously the Nationals will make more additions to their bullpen over the coming months.