Stephen Strasburg back to the #Nats on a record-setting deal…until Cole surpasses it!

It is official that the first of the big three free agents is signed, and that freed agent is coming back to the Nationals as expected with Stephen Strasburg agreeing to a 7-year deal for $245 million at $35 million a year with a $32.7 million per year AAV calculation due to the deferred dollars. There is a method to the madness of this signing if you believe that agent Scott Boras just set his other client, Gerrit Cole, as the biggest name left out there on the pitching side and bidders will have to surpass the 7/$245,000,000 that Strasburg just got, and they probably will be asking 9/$320,000,000 for the younger Cole. 

In July, Strasburg will turn 32-years-old, and his contract will go through his age 38 season. If that sounds like a contract that will not end well, it sounds like it based on age regression. Because the Nats are paying some interest on the deferrals but below the imputed rate of return, the Nats will get some AAV relief of $2.3 million per year. There is also a no trade clause.

“There is always a risk with seven-year deals. Seven-year deals for a pitcher, even more risk,” Rizzo said at the impromptu news conference this afternoon in San Diego at the Winter Meetings. “We thought that the reward greatly outweighed the risk. It was a position of need, it was a player we identified and wanted, and we knew him better than maybe any other player in the league, and we made a commitment to him, and he made a commitment to us.”

To refresh memories, Strasburg was the MVP of the World Series for the Nationals and a homegrown talent who was drafted number one overall by the Nationals in 2009. The Lerners have always appreciated loyalty, and the fact that Strasburg stayed with the Nats on a slightly below market contract at $25 million a year could be factoring into the larger than expected contract this time around. There is a good chance that Nats fans will not be happy with the back-end of this contract which could constrain the Nats in 4-to-7 years down the road if Strasburg is not pitching up to his contract value.

“I must say that for Stephen, for him to establish a legacy and wear the ‘Curly W’ for his career was something that was very important to him,” Boras said. “And I think it was because he knew that people in this organization cared deeply about him, and always cared about his interests and the interests of his family, and because of that, he decided to stay at home and stay in one uniform and remain a Washington National for the remainder of his career.”

Now Nats fans and the media will have to wonder what effect the Strasburg signing will have on Anthony Rendon. If Mark Lerner’s own words mean anything, the Nats will no longer be pursuing Rendon. But if Strasburg’s deferrals (cash only) are a consolation to the Nats 2020 cashflow then maybe a Rendon deal could work and that will lead to more speculation.

In the meantime, the Nationals payroll is getting stretched and they will have about four remaining holes to fill. Who plays third base full-time and who plays second base full-time? It is becoming more likely that some of the remaining holes will be filled with players accepting deals to keep the Nats under the CBT threshold and that increases the odds that Wilmer Difo or Carter Kieboom are on the Opening Day roster due to their salaries balancing out the roster — unless the Lerners decide to blow through the salary cap.

“Our plan was to move quickly,” Rizzo said. “To get our rotation fixed sooner rather than later because if we didn’t, we’d have to pivot and go in a different direction. … I think it was important to him, too. I think it was important to him, and I think he realized it was imperative to us to get our rotation set.”

The Nationals are now set in the starting rotation as they will go with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez in the 1-4 spots and allow Joe Ross, Austin Voth and Erick Fedde compete for the number five spot in the rotation. The rotation based on current commitments is approximately $605 million plus incentives and bonuses which is by far the most in baseball history. Mike Rizzo made a point of saying in today’s presser that this team is built on starting pitching — yes it is.

With Strasburg’s signing, the Nationals are at a +41.1 WAR on Fangraphs, and are approximately +5.0 WAR from reaching the 90-win mark. Strasburg is projected at a +4.9 WAR for 2020.

Standby as the hot stove is red hot right now!

Pitchers B/T Contract Status CBT Salary
1 Anibal Sanchez R/R  $                                 9,500,000
2 Austin Voth R/R Minimum  $                                     575,000
3 Backend Bullpen Arm      $                                 6,500,000
4 Erick Fedde R/R Minimum  $                                     575,000 ??
5 Hunter Strickland R/R Arb 3  $                                 1,600,000
6 Joe Ross R/R Arb 2  $                                 1,500,000
7 Max Scherzer R/R  $                               28,689,376
8 Patrick Corbin L/L  $                               23,333,333
9 Roenis Elias L/L Arb 2  $                                 1,900,000
10 Sean Doolittle L/L  $                                 6,500,000
11 Stephen Strasburg  $                               32,700,000
12 Tanner Rainey  $                                     600,000
13 Wander Suero R/R Minimum  $                                     575,000
Kyle Finnegan R/R Options
Catchers B/T
Raudy Read R/R
Tres Barrera R/R
14 Kurt Suzuki R/R  $                                 5,000,000
15 Yan Gomes R/R  $                                 5,000,000
Infielders B/T
Adrian Sanchez R/R
16 Carter Kieboom R/R Minimum  $                                     575,000 ??
18 Free Agent 1B L/L    $                                 4,000,000
19 Free Agent 3B      $                               24,000,000
20 Howie Kendrick R/R 1B/2B  $                                 6,250,000
Jake Noll R/R
17 Trea Turner R/R Arb 2  $                                 7,750,000
21 Utility infielder      $                                 3,500,000
Wilmer Difo S/R Arb 1  $                                 1,000,000 ??????
Outfielders B/T
22 Adam Eaton L/L  $                                 9,500,000
23 Andrew Stevenson L/L Minimum  $                                     575,000
24 Juan Soto L/L Minimum  $                                     650,000
25 Michael A. Taylor R/R  $                                 3,800,000
26 Victor Robles R/R Minimum  $                                     600,000
40 man cost est.  $                                 2,250,000
Player benefits est.  $                               15,000,000
Bonuses and incentives est.  $                                 3,500,000
Total  $                             207,497,709  
      CBT 2019 Limit  $                             208,000,000
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