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How Stephen Strasburg’s contract extension came together

Detroit Tigers v Washington Nationals

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 09: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the sixth inning during a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Nationals Park on May 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

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James Wagner and Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post have a really interesting and in-depth look at the machinations behind the seven-year, $175 million contract Stephen Strasburg inked with the Nationals earlier this week. It features contributions from Barry Svrluga, Chelsea Janes (who was the first to report the news), and Thomas Boswell.

Historically, clients of agent Scott Boras haven’t signed contract extensions, instead choosing to test the market as free agents. Strasburg, however, told Boras during dinner in mid-February that he wanted to stay in Washington. Boras had increasingly more complex discussions with Nationals owner Ted Lerner and GM Mike Rizzo. Many rounds of golf were played, many dinners were had, and many pieces of art were admired while the two sides hammered out a deal.

Interestingly, Wagner and Kilgore note that the Nationals’ front office treated the Strasburg extension like an arbitration case. They compared him to other players, particularly Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez, who signed seven-year deals for $180 million and $175 million, respectively. The Nationals were hesitant because of Strasburg’s 2010 Tommy John surgery and a 2013 procedure to remove a bone chip. Boras sold the Nationals on Strasburg’s potential, that he could one day be as great as Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, and Zack Greinke.

The most fascinating part was how the negotiations were kept under wraps for so long. Only a handful of people outside of those directly involved had any idea an extension was being worked on, but they kept it close to the vest. Even as Strasburg left to get a physical, which typically only happens during the season if a player suffered an injury, the right-hander noted that he told his teammates it was “nothing serious” and that was enough.

Janes broke the report about an hour into Strasburg’s start against the Tigers on Monday, news that shocked everyone who assumed Strasburg would headline the otherwise underwhelming free agent class after this season. Seven years, $175 million with a limited no-trade clause, rolling opt-outs, $70 million in deferrals, and a $10 million signing bonus.

Great reporting, as usual, from the Washington Post team. The full article is worth the 15 minutes or so it will take to read.

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