Nationals

Quick Links

2016 Nats roster outlook: Stephen Strasburg's contract year

strasburg.png

2016 Nats roster outlook: Stephen Strasburg's contract year

Age on Opening Day 2016: 27

How acquired: Drafted in 1st round, 2009

2016 salary: $10.4 million

2015 stats: 23 GS, 3.46 ERA, 117 ERA+, 127.1 IP, 115 H, 56 R, 49 ER, 14 HR, 26 BB, 155 SO, 11-7, 2.81 FIP, 1.107 WHIP, 11.0 SO/9, 5.96 K/BB

2016 storyline: Like his longtime teammate Jordan Zimmermann the year before, Stephen Strasburg enters the final season of his contract with the Nationals in 2016. The former first overall pick could be playing his final season in Washington, as free agency awaits him. It just so happens to be a very weak free agent class for starting pitching, which probably adds to the likelihood this could be his last year with the Nats.

Whether Strasburg stays with Washington beyond 2016 is unclear, but there's no question he will be relied on heavily in this upcoming season. Zimmermann is now gone and so is Doug Fister. It is now Max Scherzer and Strasburg at the top of the Nats' rotation as the clear No. 1 and 2.

Strasburg will hope for better health in 2016 and that his dominant run to finish last season will carry over. Strasburg finally got healthy in August and pushed to the finish line with a 1.90 ERA over his last 10 starts. 

Best-case scenario: Given how good Strasburg was to finish 2015, it seems likely he will return to form this season as a top shelf starter. He is usually good for around 30 starts and an ERA in the low 3.00s.

But what if Strasburg gets even better? Was his final stretch in 2015 an indication of improvement, that he is ready to take another step?

There is definitely another level Strasburg can reach, as his talent is off the charts. An even better Strasburg would probably see his ERA drop below 3.00 across a full, injury-free season. If that happens, he will be paid quite handsomely by somebody next offseason.

Worst-case scenario: Strasburg had a procedure this offseason to remove a benign growth in his back, which made what he did late last year even more impressive. But what if he still has persisting injury issues that linger through 2016?

What made his 2015 season so confounding was the drawn-out saga of multiple minor injuries he suffered. It started with his ankle and ended up affecting his back, oblique and trap muscle. They were all tied into his pitching mechanics and his back was particularly difficult to diagnose.

Strasburg still had a solid year overall, but the injuries caused him to be uncharacteristically inconsistent. If he has similar troubles in 2016, the Nationals' rotation will be significantly affected, given how important he will be for their chances.

Most-likely scenario: From 2012-14, Strasburg was a rock in the Nats' rotation with a low ERA and the durability to take the ball every fifth day. It's likely he will return to being that guy and it would not be surprising at all to see Strasburg have a career year.

Strasburg's last 10 starts in 2015 were as well as he's pitched since he returned from Tommy John surgery. That bodes well for 2016, and perhaps so does the fact he's entering a contract year. 

FanGraphs projects Strasburg to have his best season yet with a 2.94 ERA in 31 starts. He is certainly capable of those numbers and the Nats would have quite the 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation with Scherzer and that version of Strasburg anchoring their staff.

[RELATED: Bryce Harper gives emotional acceptance speech for MVP award]

Quick Links

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

RELATED: 2018 MLB BETTING ODDS

Quick Links

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE