Stephen Strasburg. He’s been darn good to this point, with his improved mechanics, strikeout ability, phenom-label, jersey-selling prowess, knee-buckling curveball, mini goatee, Toyota commercial; need I say more. But is he worth $30-million dollars?
Superagent (and buffoon in my personal opinion) Scott Boras was recently quoted on record as saying that Strasburg was worth such an amount per season. Whether Boras was being serious or whether it was just a ploy to get larger markets prepared for a potential Strasburg bidding in 2017 (Strasburg’s current first free-agent year), it still raises questions over what exactly Strasburg is worth.
Personally, I don’t see it. I love Strasburg to death, but the fact of the matter is that he’s not even the best pitcher on the Nationals, let alone the major leagues. As I mentioned, he’s a strikeout machine, but Jordan Zimmermann has been the best pitcher in Washington, and even he hasn’t been mentioned in that many circles for Cy Young voting to this point. Don’t get me wrong, I love J-Zim with all my Nationals pride, but I doubt any of you would ever think he’s worth $30-million a season in a serious conversation. So if a pitcher superior to Strasburg isn’t worth the money, why should he be? I had to get an answer to this question, so I decided to ask some of my fellow District On Deck writers, and here’s what they had to say:
Andy Linder: At this point in his career, I really do not believe Stephen Strasburg is worth a $30 million yearly salary despite all the hype he has received. Yes, Strasburg is an incredible talent and a leader both on the field and in the dugout for the Washington Nationals. However, is he truly that much better than a guy like C.C. Sabathia, Matt Cain, or Justin Verlander? I’m not so sure. Those type of guys are making anywhere between $20-$23 million for the next few years (an OUTRAGEOUS $24M for Johan Santana), and I don’t think Strasburg should get any more than that. He’s dazzled us in basically all of his 36 starts to date, but that said there are still a bunch of concerns the Lerners, Mike Rizzo, and Davey Johnson should worry about. Will Mr. Strasburg finish off his 160 innings this year strong, but start to lose his command when he comes back next spring? Will Strasburg simply continue to lose confidence in his pitching, as Davey has referred to recently? Tommy John surgery can be dangerous territory, and although there have been many successful patients, who knows if we could see shades of a Mike Hampton or Kerry Wood in DC down the road in this guy. For now, yes, Stephen Strasburg deserves every penny of a $20+ million contract, but $30 million is going a little too far, Mr. Boras.
Darlene Langley: Strasburg isn’t worth $30 million per year in free agent value right now, but he probably will be by the time he becomes a free agent in four and a half years.
Strasburg is still at the beginning of his career and in his first full season coming off Tommy John Surgery. He has unlimited potential, but further injuries or not continuing to improve each year are issues about which any team would be concerned in evaluating whether Strasburg is worth $30 million a year right now. Major league history is full of pitchers who looked like long term aces at the beginning of their careers only to crash and burn for a variety of reasons (Kerry Wood, anyone?). Strasburg doesn’t have the track record to command $30 million per year right now.
Right hander Matt Cain was just signed this year to a contract extension with the Giants getting $20 million per year, with a $21 million option in the last year of the deal. Matt Cain has never won 15 games. Left handed pitcher CC Sabathia is getting $23 million per year in a contract negotiated three years ago. If Strasburg continues to progress and pitch well, improving his performance each year, he will command a huge number if he becomes a free agent. Inflation being what it is in salaries as the years go along, compared to what Cain and Sabathia are being paid right now, in four years $30 million for a true ace pitcher will not be an outrageous number.
Mike James: I’m hoping Scott Boras was misquoted, and his comment about Stephen Strasburg being worth $30 million per season was actually supposed to read “over three seasons,” or something equally sane. I mean, we all know Boras is a complete blowhard who hyperbolizes his clients more than anyone in history, but this is even beyond his usual scope of foolishness.
Now, I’m not here to bash Strasburg, because I’m very glad he’s on my team. But trying to justify a $30 million contract is impossible to do. The highest-paid right-handed pitchers for 2012 are Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay at $20 million, with Felix Hernandez close behind. Let’s do some comparisons, just going back to 2010, when Strasburg made his debut:
Complete Games — Verlander 13, Halladay 17, Hernandez 13, Strasburg 0. Strasburg has never even pitched into the 8th inning of a game.
All three of these pitchers have won Cy Young Awards in the past three years, and Verlander also has an MVP. Going back further, Halladay has another Cy Young from his Toronto days, while Verlander won the Rookie of the Year. Strasburg? Nothing.
Halladay and Verlander have thrown multiple no-hitters each, while Hernandez has more than one one-hitter. Strasburg hasn’t touched that air yet.
Most importantly, look at last Friday night’s 11-10 loss to the Braves that left Nationals Nation temporarily gobsmacked. A pitcher worth $30 million would never have allowed the Braves back into that game, leading 9-0 in the 6th as Strasburg did. It’s just one game, but for that kind of money, you need someone who will step on the opponent’s throat.
So while we all hope that Strasburg someday reaches the heights these other pitchers have, to say he should be paid 50 percent MORE than any of them is crazy talk. Yes, he might have the potential to be better than any of them, but potential, the saying goes, is a French word that means you’re not worth a damn yet. Strasburg, of course, is worth a damn — just not 30 million of them.
Back to Michael: I knew our staff had my back on this one. It’s incomprehendable to think that a single player, let alone a pitcher, is worthy of a $30-million contract. If he were to sign a ten-year contract at that value, he’d be a $300-million man. To put things in perspective, Albert Pujols, who is widely considered to be an all-time great, signed for $46-million less than that this past offseason when he signed his $254-million pact with the Los Angeles Angels. Though Darlene did touch on some good points, should Strasburg progress to become the “savior” that the media tagged him to be on draft day back in 2009, he would be considerably better than big-name pitchers who recently received large paydays. He’s also a huge marketing tool, which means jerseys, media attention, etc., which ups his value even more. Thus, he could command high dollars. However, we know that even the greatest of players seldom live up the the hype that surrounds them, and that it seems like Strasburg, despite being on pace to have a tremendous career, won’t be one of those select few. So the bottom line is, sorry Mr. Boras; I know you know the market pretty well, but you’re out of your monkey mind this time.