Here’s an interesting side-story to free agency to follow in the coming weeks: is Stephen Strasburg going to add himself as another significant arm in free agency?
Stephen Strasburg can opt-out of his #Nats contract after this season. While a source says he’s yet to make a decision, many in the industry expect him to become a free agent — or negotiate an extension with the Nats. Story: https://t.co/FyG57FKidB @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) September 5, 2019
Strasburg, 31, is currently signed for the four years after this season at a total of $100 million (though with a bizarre structure ($25M, then $15M, then $15M, then $45M, and deferrals). Given the uncertainty we’ve seen in the market, you might not have confidence that a 31-year-old with an extensive prior injury history could get more than a $100 million guarantee.
But then again, Strasburg only just turned 31, has always been dominant when healthy, and is putting together his healthiest season ever. Career stats, via FanGraphs:
Maybe he wouldn’t be crazy to opt out, especially if it isn’t solely about money (Morosi mentions a possible desire to move westward toward his San Diego home)? Or, if it’s primarily about money, why not at least really push the Nationals hard to tack on another year or two so that he doesn’t opt out?
If he does become a free agent, I know the big question: do the Cubs get involved in the Strasburg market?
Right now, Gerrit Cole is projected to be the top free agent arm on the market, and we’ve already heard rumors that the Cubs could be involved (as they should be, at least in an exploratory way – some guys are just so potentially impactful that you have to take a look). So, then, would the Cubs be involved in Strasburg if he were a free agent, as an alternative?
Well, at a couple years older and with far more injury considerations, Strasburg feels a lot less like a guy that you just have to take a shot at if he’s available, even if it’s not the best deployment of resources (Cole, by contrast, falls into that category for me). The Cubs will have an opening in their rotation (Cole Hamels is a free agent), they also have a crew that is collectively aging, and they also will have a couple spots opening up as soon as post-2020 (Jose Quintana, Jon Lester). Going after a starting pitcher, therefore, would not be crazy.
But for me, if it’s not going to be Cole, I’d rather see the Cubs use their available cash to aggressively go after someone like Anthony Rendon, and then fill the rotation internally and/or with shorter-term pieces. Strasburg is truly excellent, and may even have more upside potential in his 30s, but for a rotation that will already have age/health questions going forward, Strasburg doesn’t seem like the best way to use $150+ million.
*IF* he opts out, that is …