Nationals Continue Spending Big On Rotation With Record Strasburg Deal
The Nationals won the World Series by investing heavily in their starting rotation and that approach "never wavered" this offseason, leading President of Baseball Operations & GM Mike Rizzo to "take a significant leap" in offering P Stephen Strasburg a record deal to return to the club, according to Jesse Dougherty of the WASHINGTON POST. Sources said that the Nationals and Strasburg yesterday agreed to a seven-year, $245M deal, the "largest ever for a pitcher in both total and average annual value" ($35M). Strasburg's deal "directly affects the Nationals' chances of retaining" 3B Anthony Rendon, as indications are that the club "would prefer to stay under" the $208M luxury tax threshold. Nationals Owner Mark Lerner in a recent interview said that the club "could not 'afford' both stars." Rendon is "looking to be the game's highest-paid third baseman," and if the Nationals are "looking to avoid the CBT and not use the World Series afterglow as an excuse to splurge, their budget just got very tight" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/10). Lerner cited the team's "high payroll" and the "'huge numbers' each player would command in free agency as reasons the Nationals could not re-up both" Strasburg and Rendon. While Rizzo said that he was "unaware of Lerner's recent comments," he "didn't dismiss the idea of still pursuing Rendon." Rizzo: "Mark realizes that there's ways to fit players in, there's ways that you can field a championship-caliber roster -- and, again, the resources have always been there, so I don't expect that to change" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/10).
A DROP IN THE BUCKET: In DC, Barry Svrluga writes what should be "heartening to Nationals fans still reveling in the World Series glow is that their club identified its top target, pursued him aggressively and reeled him in with a massive deal that is simultaneously fair-market value and a record total for a pitcher." Meanwhile, Svrluga writes "don't buy" what Lerner said about being "unable to afford" both Strasburg and Rendon. The Nationals can "afford to have whomever they want." Svrluga: "To say, 'We already have a large payroll to begin with,' as Lerner did, can be simultaneously true and irrelevant" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/10). In DC, Ryan Wormeli noted the Lerner family is "among the wealthiest ownership groups" in MLB, and while hundreds of millions of dollars "may seem like a lot, it's important to remember that sports team owners are almost exclusively billionaires" (NBCSPORTSWASHINGTON.com, 12/9).
SETTING THE STAGE: THE RINGER's Ben Lindbergh wrote under the header, "Stephen Strasburg's Record-Setting Deal Is Surprising, But It Could Make A Lot Of Sense" (THERINGER.com, 12/9). In N.Y., James Wagner notes Strasburg's deal "set the market" for free agent P Gerrit Cole. The Yankees and Angels, "considered to be the primary contenders to sign Cole, most likely paid close attention to the figures in Strasburg's new agreement" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/10). In DC, Dave Sheinin writes no one "knows precisely what Cole's price tag will end up being." But given Strasburg's "stunning terms, few in the industry would be shocked if it started with a three" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/10).
REVERSING COURSE: ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote in recent MLB offseasons,"a lot of the big free agents have lingered on the board into February and March, with a large portion of them" being Scott Boras clients. Because Boras "represents so many of the best free agents this winter, he has seemingly made an adjustment and been getting some of them off the board relatively quickly." Olney: "The Boras Corp can build another legacy wing with the contracts signed this winter" (ESPN.com, 12/9). MLB.com's Mark Feinsand wrote things have "changed in the year since the free-agent market slowed to a crawl, as we've already seen four players sign deals worth more" than $60M. That is the "same number" from the entire '18-19 offseason (MLB.com, 12/9).
NOT SO AMAZIN': ESPN.com's David Schoenfield in a roundtable discussion wrote the "biggest loser" of the Strasburg deal is the Mets, as they have "seen the Phillies sign Zack Wheeler, the Braves sign Cole Hamels and the Nationals re-sign Strasburg." ESPN.com's Sam Miller wrote the Mets and Phillies "now look like they'll be fighting for third place again, at least in the short term and barring other major moves" (ESPN.com, 12/9). In N.Y., Ken Davidoff writes the Mets this offseason "have been a no-show." Only last week's "bombshell news" that hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen would take over the franchise from the Wilpon family has "prevented a Mets fans mutiny" (N.Y. POST, 12/10).