With increasing buzz he’ll exercise his opt-out after the season, these five teams could be ready to make a run at Stephen Strasburg.
On Wednesday night against the Minnesota Twins, Stephen Strasburg was pretty good (two runs on for hits, seven strikeouts and two walks) over six innings. He picked up his 17th win of the season, which leads the National League and is also a new career-high for him.
With two or three more starts coming to him this season, Strasburg has already reached 30 starts for just the third time in his career. He leads the National League with 191 innings, and the second 200-inning season of his career is a foregone conclusion.
Since the start of July (13 starts), Strasburg has a 2.96 ERA with 105 strikeouts (11.5 K/9) and 22 walks (2.4 BB/9) with a .201 opponent’s batting average. Overall this season he has has 3.49 ERA (3.22 FIP) with a 10.8 K/9 and a 2.3 BB/9. Entering his start Wednesday night, he was one of three pitchers with a K/9 rate over 10.0 and a ground ball rate above 50 percent.
Strasburg signed a six-year, $175 million contract extension in May of 2016. As is the custom of the Washington Nationals when they do a big contract, the deal included a healthy dose of deferred payments. Strasburg also has opt-out clauses after this season and next, and if he opts out after this year he’d be leaving four years and $100 million ($40 million deferred from 2027-2030) on the table. But if he feels like he could get more than $15 million per year (what he’ll actually see minus the deferred payments) on a new, perhaps longer deal, opting out may be a legit consideration.
Last week, Jon Morosi of MLB Network passed along “increasing speculation in the industry” that Strasburg will opt-out of his contract after the season. He is expected to review his options with his agent, Scott Boras.
During a radio appearance on Wednesday, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo expressed confidence Strasburg would remain with the team even if he were to opt out. Rizzo wouldn’t be expected to say anything else, as he also noted Strasburg has moved to the D.C. area on a full-time basis.
But let’s say Strasburg does opt-out after the season, in search of more than $100 million guaranteed on a new contract. His market will be necessarily limited, but these five teams may be ready to make a serious run at the former No. 1 overall pick.
5. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels may be ready to spend this winter, with their total locked-in payroll obligations set to drop by more than $40 million from 2020 ($134.83 million) to 2021 ($90.116 million). They could go after Gerrit Cole, the top free agent starter on the market, or go after the second-best starter available in Strasburg (if he is available, of course).
Strasburg is from San Diego, so it’s worth wondering if he’s at all interested in pitching closer to home. If that is a consideration for him upon hitting the open market, the Angels have their SoCal location as a selling point. They also need to aggressively surround Mike Trout with more talent, to go with a lingering need for a legit No. 1 starter.
Strasburg and the Angels could be a good marriage. At the very least, general manager Bill Eppler has to already be considering a path to making a significant offer.