Stephen Strasburg is, quite quietly, having a wonderful season. He’s 16-5 with a 3.47 ERA and a 215/43 K/BB ratio in 179 innings across 28 starts. When it’s all said and done he’s going to finish with either the best or second-best season in his career, depending on how you like to measure such things, with his other best or second-best season having come in 2017.
Which means that Strasburg, for all of the hype of his youth, is an ace in his prime. Which means it’s a pretty spiffy thing for him to have an opt-out in his contract this offseason if he chooses to take it. Will he? Jon Morosi is reporting that “there’s increasing speculation in the industry” that he will.
If he does, he’ll walk away from a guaranteed four years and $100 million. It’s structured rather oddly: $25 million next year and then $15 million in both 2021 and 2022, followed by a big $45 million payday in 2023. He also has a ton of non-interest-bearing deferred money still coming to him from the Nationals, payable in seven annual installments beginning in 2024, some amount of which will likely be reduced if he opts out. The accountants can figure that out.
Strasburg and Scott Boras have to figure out if they think Strasburg can do better if he hits a very thin free agent market. A market that currently has Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke making in the mid-$30 million range, Justin Verlander $33 million and David Price and Clayton Kershaw $31 million. Of course, they could also use the threat of an opt-out to get an extension and/or restructuring of his deal with the Nats.