With the recent reports coming out that Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg looks to be leaning towards opting out of the remaining four years of his contract this winter, teams should already be looking ahead to the setting up money for him. While the 31-year-old starter out of San Diego State University is on the wrong side of 30 for any professional athlete, Strasburg seems to be like a fine wine, putting together better and better seasons as he gets older.
Having been a part of the starting rotation for the Nationals since 2010, the 2009 first-overall draft pick has become an integral part of the Nats’ makeup as a team. Turning into a pitching-heavy franchise who also has the likes of both Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin in their rotation alongside Strasburg, the Nats should be very concerned and be taking these reports very seriously.
Financially, the Nats are very much in play for big-time free agents if they so choose to be during this upcoming offseason, as they currently sit with almost $50 million in tax space, which includes Strasburg opting into his $25 million option. If Strasburg does follow through on opting out, then it frees up the team that $25 million for this year and $100 million total over the next four years combined, a huge savings but a big-time hole to fill.
If Strasburg were to be looking to go somewhere else, what kind of a team should be interested in his services? One that is looking to compete in 2020 or is already in playoff contention, a team that has enough money to spend on him without breaking the bank, and a team that needs that starting rotation filled out with a superstar’s arm.
With those qualifications in mind, here are four teams that would be smart to begin to reserve the Brinks trucks already for when and if Strasburg decides to leave the nation’s capital in search of more money.
A rumored team, according to Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com, that would be a great fit for Strasburg, the San Diego Padres have a lot of the needed areas listed above covered or can be covered with signing Strasburg.
First off, locationally they are positioned as well as anyone, as with Strasburg having attended SDSU, the former Aztec would be playing professional baseball right in his collegiate backyard, something that has to be alluring to the starter.
According to a CBS article done by Matt Snyder, teams had the lowest batting average while playing games at Petco Park, through June 9 of this season. The .230 average is a whopping 66 points behind the leading field, Coors Field for the Colorado Rockies, which boasts a favorable .296 batting average for teams.
Being a pitcher’s park can only help boost the interest that Strasburg may have in his collegiate hometown franchise, but how he fits into their current rotation is even better. With both Scherzer and Corbin joining him in D.C., Strasburg is not the guy anymore; playing in San Diego would afford him that chance to be THE guy again for this team, surrounded by solid up-and-coming arms that are much younger than him.
Ultimately, donning a Friars jersey in 2020 looks to cover the vast majority of things that Strasburg could want, and it would be a low-pressure, high-reward situation that he could ride out into the sunset with. Plus, their financial situation, coupled with their willingness to shell out big-time money, leads me to believe that Strasburg would be a great fit for this team.
The team that looks to be the closest to winning a World Series on this list, the Houston Astros have gone all-in on their pitching staff, with both Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole holding down the rotation. Having acquired stud Zack Greinke at the deadline puts him on the team for the next two seasons, but at a steep, steep price of $35 million per season.
Cole is set up to be a free agent next season, and the top-notch pitching performance that he has put in this season will probably make him a hot commodity on the free agency market, potentially pricing himself out of the Astros’ range. While he seems very comfortable and willing to stay in Houston, Strasburg could become a really solid plan B if Cole does not resign, albeit not for much cheaper.
On the other side of the coin, this team could boast one of the most dominant starting pitching rotations that this league has ever seen if they were to resign Cole and bring Strasburg in. With over $100 million in space to spend this offseason, the Astros do have the capital to make some big-time moves in order to repeat as the WS favorites coming out of the American League.
Strasburg would be transitioning to pitch in the daunting AL, but with his stuff and being on a staff with future Hall of Famer Verlander, as well as Greinke and potentially Cole, he would fit in great there. The only issue that remains to be seen is if he would want to become the team’s third or fourth fiddle in their rotation, which seems to be one of the problems that are making him consider leaving the Nationals.
A bit of a wild card here in this process, but the Arizona Diamondbacks, who just flipped Greinke to the Astros for a plethora of top-tier minor league prospects, look to be right on the cusp of competing for a postseason berth, albeit not by winning the NL West. Even though Greinke was the team’s best starter when he was shipped out, his albatross of a contract was quite a hindrance on the D-Backs, which is assumed to be one of the big reasons why he was traded away.
While Strasburg would command similar money on a similar pay structure to Greinke, Strasburg is five years younger than the former Royal, Brewer, Angel, Dodger and now Diamondback, which could push the needle in favor of the Diamondbacks being highly interested.
Slotting in with the likes of Robbie Ray and Merrill Kelly, Arizona is in need of a strong right-hander who can lead the team’s starting rotation. Plus, 2020 marks the final season that Ray is arbitration-eligible, which could mean that the D-Backs are looking to ship him out and Strasburg would immediately be the lone top-tiered starter in that rotation.
More of an outside option, the Diamondbacks are also geographically close to San Diego, so he could like that aspect of the team too. Regardless, consider Arizona to be on the outside looking in for the chase for Strasburg.
The final entrant on this list, the Toronto Blue Jays truly may not have a lick of a chance to sign Strasburg, but boy would he look awesome for this team. As the Blue Jays struggle to remain relevant in the uber-competitive AL East division, Strasburg would immediately become the best veteran on the team and the best player north of the border, slotting in with their youthful core that would be a sight to see.
Combining Strasburg’s talent with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and others, he would be a big-time step in the team’s rebuild/refresh plan, which looks to be reaching its next stage in development. Strasburg may not be keen on the idea of not only changing leagues but also changing countries, but if he would want to have a ton of fun with a loose team that is building itself up to competing once again, he could do no wrong by signing with the Blue Jays.
All in all, the chase for Strasburg may ultimately shape how this offseason goes. With the reluctance to give out large contract last offseason, buyer’s remorse dominated headlines everywhere. With the hope that the upcoming 2020 offseason does not follow suit, if Strasburg ultimately does decide to opt-out of his current deal, get ready for a super interesting offseason approach by teams.