Woke today to check the score from last night (we have a toddler, ergo we are sleep deprived and go to bed early). After reading about Bryce Harper‘s mouth and ejection and Clint Robinson‘s walkoff, there was a small little link at the bottom of the article…
Stephen Strasburg signs a 7yr, $175M extension to stay with the team, as broken last night by the Washington Post’s Chelsea James.
Wow. Did not see this coming. I never thought this team would re-sign Strasburg frankly, because I thought there’d be a feeding frenzy when he hit free agency this coming off-season.
Strasburg’s representation (Scott Boras) is not exactly known for having his players sign extensions. The 2016-17 free agent market for starters was so bare that Strasburg likely would have inspired a bidding war and you have to think Strasburg just left a bunch of money on the table. The next best starter hitting free agency next off-season now might be Rich Hill. Rich Frigging Hill, as in the guy the Nats had on a MLFA deal last summer and cut him loose so he could go re-make his career out of the Oakland bullpen.
What kind of value did the team just get? Here’s a quick look at the other SP deals in the $150M or higher range:
- David Price: 7yrs/$217M starting in 2016.
- Clayton Kershaw: 7yrs, $214M starting in 2014
- Max Scherzer: 7yrs/$210M starting in 2015 (albeit with significant deferred money that brings the net present value down to around $185M)
- Zack Greinke: 6yrs/$206M starting in 2016
- Felix Hernandez, 7yrs/$175M starting in 2014
- Masahiro Tanaka: 7yrs/$155M (but with his $20M posting fee its a $175M deal all told)
- Jon Lester: 6yrs/$155M starting in 2015.
So, this is the selection of contracts to compare this Strasburg deal to. Other big deals signed last off-season include Johnny Cueto (6yrs/$130M) and Jordan Zimmermann (5yrs/$110M).
There’s already a bunch of hot takes; some like the deal, some think its a mistake. On the one hand, Yes, pretty much any big long term free agent deal eventually looks like a stinker, so in that respect you can be a cynic and say that every long term FA contract is a mistake. But that’s just not a realistic way to look at team building in this modern era. Unless you’re willing to completely punt on your season for several years running (see Chicago Cubs, see Houston Astros, see the Atlanta Braves right now, even look at what our own Nats did for two seasons so they could acquire both Strasburg and Harper in the draft), then keeping your team consistently in the upper division requires spending on the FA market to paper over what your farm system may not be developing.
But looking at (specifically) the Cueto and Lester deals … I can’t help but think that the Nats got a steal here. Who would you rather have, Cueto for 6/$130M or Strasburg for 7/$175? Same question for Lester. Strasburg, to me, is a better pitcher (a far better pitcher) and they got him for basically the same AAV as those guys. Would you rather have Strasburg for $25M AAV or Price at $31M AAV? Honestly? Give me Strasburg and I can use that $6M to buy more bullpen guys.
I know Strasburg has his detractors out there, people who with a straight face don’t think he’s an “Ace” or one of the best 10-15 arms in this league; you people are fools. Look at nearly any metric you want over the last 3-4 years and you’ll find that Strasburg is in the top 10-15 league wide. Here’s a helpful link to fangraphs individual pitcher stats from 2012-now; in this time frame Strasburg is (among qualified starters): 13th in fWAR, 13th in ERA, 9th in FIP, 2nd in xFIP, 9th in SIERA, 4th in K/9, 11th in K/BB, 5th in FB velocity, 20th in wFA, 7th in wCU, 6th in wCH. That’s pretty rare air to be that high up in so many different categories spanning the various statistical ways to measure pitching these days. He’s not Clayton Kershaw … who is?
Interesting question to ponder: is this Strasburg/Boras “payback” for “shutdown-gate” in 2012?? Their way of saying “thank you” for looking out more for the pitcher than the team in that case? Because it seems so to me; that’s my “hot take.”
I leave you with this before debating the merits of this move: Here’s our projected rotation in 2017:
Scherzer, Strasburg, Giolito, Ross, and Gio Gonzalez or Tanner Roark.
Yeah; that could be pretty frigging good.