There will be ample competition, but the San Diego Padres need to make their very best effort to get Stephen Strasburg.
Coming off arguably the best season of his career, followed by a sterling postseason capped by winning World Series MVP, it was no surprise Stephen Strasburg officially opted out of the final four years (and $100 million) of his contract on Saturday. There will be plenty of interest in his services, and Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune has reported the Padres plan to pursue the right-hander.
The door is not at all closed for Strasburg to return to the Washington Nationals, but that seems like the most likely scenario. It takes a certain level of fortitude to leave $100 million on the table in pursuit of more in terms of money and years, but Strasburg was uniquely positioned to do so and he is now on the open market.
It appears the Nationals are ready to set the bar, at least in terms of average per year.
Strasburg was born and raised in San Diego, and played for Padres’ legend Tony Gwynn at San Diego State. That tie has automatically placed the Padres in the conversation to sign him, and if the last two offseasons have shown anything they’ll be willing to enter the mix with a significant offer.
Even with the commitments given to first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Manny Machado over the last two offseasons, San Diego only has $119.35 million in payroll currently committed for next year, to 14 players (via Spotrac). Any looming options or arbitration raises will alter that equation, but a pipeline of Minor League talent that has started to hit the big leagues has given the Padres a great level of cost control. Roster Resource estimates their 2020 obligations at $120 million, after projecting arbitration salaries.
At this point, barring a quick re-signing with Washington, the market for Strasburg will be pretty robust and it will be expensive to get him to consider all options. He may say no to the Padres, but it should not be because they didn’t make a competitive offer to bring him back home.