In the wake of being named the MVP of the 2019 World Series, Stephen Strasburg has reportedly opted out of the final four years and $100 million of his contract with the Nationals, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. The report was later confirmed by NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas.
So, let the games begin, right? It’s logical that the White Sox — potentially in need of a front-line starter to pair with Lucas Giolito — would have interest in Strasburg, especially given that the South Siders have been linked to Gerrit Cole, the presumptive top earner of the impending free agent pool, often in recent weeks.
But let’s pump the brakes on all that for a minute. For one thing, Strasburg opting out doesn’t necessarily telegraph him departing the nation’s capital. The Nationals just completed a championship run of epic proportions, a run in which they went toe-to-toe with the two best regular season teams in baseball and came out on top, coming from behind to win four elimination games along the way. This move is undoubtedly motivated by Strasburg’s desire to capitalize (monetarily) on the momentum he built up this postseason, rather than trying to force his way out of the city where he’s played his entire career.
The Nationals thus enter the sweepstakes for Strasburg’s services as the tentative favorites, but the 31-year-old made himself a lot of money this postseason. The contract he’s opting out of, after all, was originally worth $175 million over seven years when he re-upped with the Nats back in 2017. Leaving the final four years of that pact on the table implies an expectation that the deal he ultimately signs will be of comparable length with a higher average annual value.
The Nationals, meanwhile, committed $140 million to Patrick Corbin last offseason and are preparing for a negotiation with third baseman Anthony Rendon that would likely end with a contract north of $200 million in total value. Whether those factors impact the amount of money they’re willing to shell out remains to be seen.
One thing that’s not in doubt is that after going 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA, 47 strikeouts and only four walks over 36.1 innings this postseason, Strasburg shouldn’t have trouble finding a contract that suits him. The market for his services will be fierce, with the typical big players — the Yankees, Phillies, Angels, etc. — all sure to be involved.
The White Sox could jump into that fray, as well, if they’re willing to spend. The team has a number of roster holes to look at this winter and Rick Hahn has said the organization is intent on taking the next step. The transcendence of Strasburg is undeniable. As a proven performer in the highest of high-leverage situations, he’d be indispensable for any team, but especially for one looking to make that aforementioned leap to contender status.
Now, we wait, as the hot stove simmers.
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