When Stephen Strasburg opted out of the remaining four years of his contract with the Nationals in November, the team understood it wasn’t going to be the only club bidding for his services.
So when reports broke that the New York Yankees were among the teams meeting with Strasburg, one of the premiere free agents on the market, it likely came as no surprise to the Nationals’ brass in D.C.
But after ESPN reported Thursday that the Yankees have made fellow top free agent starter Gerrit Cole “their clear offseason priority,” the man representing both of them has all the leverage.
On NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk podcast this week, Todd Dybas sat down with fellow beat writers Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post and MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.
When talking about Strasburg’s prospects as a free agent, Dybas pointed to the unique situation the Nationals and Yankees, among other teams, are facing while courting the top two starters of free agency.
“We kind of have a weird dynamic because Scott Boras has the No. 1 pitcher and the No. 1A pitcher,” Dybas said. “It’s not two agents playing off of each other. It’s one guy probably playing his guys against each other going forward and trying to run up both their prices concurrently.”
The Yankees’ interest alone is enough to drive up the expected prices of both Strasburg and Cole. But as Collier notes, New York hasn’t dug too deep into its pockets over the last few seasons.
“The name, the Yankees, still carries so much weight and fear—for people who think they’re going to lose all their best players to the Yankees—but that’s just not the way the team has operated for the last handful of years or so,” Collier said.
However, if the ESPN report rings true and the Yankees do offer Cole a record-setting contract, that would certainly take them out of the running for Strasburg. Yet the high-spending Los Angeles Dodgers are also rumored to be in on Strasburg, meaning the Yankees’ pursuit of Cole likely won’t do much to reduce the price for the Nationals’ free agent.
In fact, Boras could use the fact that Cole’s price is so unaffordable for most teams and try to convince other clubs that Strasburg is a bargain. That could pull more teams into the bidding war and drive up his price.
Dybas believes Strasburg will sign for six years and $200 million, while Dougherty thinks Boras will seek a similar contract to the one another one of his clients received: Max Scherzer and his seven-year, $210 million deal he signed with Washington in 2015.
For their full conversation about both Strasburg and fellow free agent Anthony Rendon, you can listen to the Nationals Talk podcast on Art19, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
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