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How the shutdown saga helped Strasburg stay with the Nats

How the shutdown saga helped Strasburg stay with the Nats

It was the controversy that four years ago sent the baseball world into a frenzy, and one that made the Nationals a target for major criticism.

But with Stephen Strasburg's infamous "shutdown" chapter squarely in the rearview mirror, the key players in that saga all say the organization's decision to protect its top pitcher played a part in Tuesday's announcement of a seven-year, $175 million contract extension with the 27-year-old right hander.

"As a competitor it was a really tough pill to swallow," Strasburg said. "But at the end of the day you have to look at what their intentions are. I think their intentions are that it's an investment. They want me to be here pitching at a high level for a long time."

By now, the story is painfully familiar to Nats fans: Following Strasburg's return from Tommy John surgery in 2011, Nationals ownership and front office (as well as agent Scott Boras) concocted a plan the following season to limit his innings, regardless of whether or not the team would be in postseason contention. Of course, they would make the playoffs, but the Nats didn't budge and sidelined their ace for the entirety of the postseason. 

"As painful as it was for him, he knew it was for the right reasons," said Mike Rizzo. "I think that played into [the extension]."

The insistence on adhering to the plan drew the ire of many baseball purists who believed that, while long term investment is important, future playoff appearances shouldn't to be taken for granted, either. 

"That was a very bold move I think at the time," said Dusty Baker, who was managing with the Cincinatti Reds in 2012. "..So I gotta commend Mike Rizzo and these guys for putting it out there, for not being afraid to do what they thought was right."

Obviously, one of the big "what ifs" in Nats history is pondering what would have happened had Strasburg been allowed to pitch in the 2012 postseason. Furthermore, it's hard to tell exactly how much the shutdown has directly contributed to his production in recent seasons.

However, Strasburg revealed that one intangible benefit it did have was that it created trust between player and organization, which was a factor in the deal getting done. 

"Looking back on it, they took great care of me not only as a pitcher but as a person," he said. "What they believe in and what I believe in kind of coincide. It's just a great fit for me and my family."

"Ethic had a lot to do with Stephen Strasburg here," added Boras. "And that the ethic of this franchise was really medical first. It was listening to medical advice. It was, in advance of a season, saying that this player's health was a priority that exceeded all others...it's an ethic that you don't forget in an ownership."

Strasburg's megadeal is highest that any pitcher that has underwent the Tommy John procedure has received in history, something future free agent hurlers coming off the same surgery will be sure to take note of. And should Tommy John survivors be offered big money from prospective suitors in the offseasons to come, perhaps they'll have Strasburg and the Nats to thank for it. 

"I promised [his] family a long time ago that we would do what's best for the player and the pitcher," Rizzo said. "I'm glad to see that he did his part by staying true to us, too. It was a great marriage at the beginning and it still is today and it's going to be for a long time. We couldn't be prouder."

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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

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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