With the Washington Nationals signing Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million, the team now has six quality starters for a rotation that only needs five spots. So, who can be the odd one out, if Washington does get rid of someone?
One of the names that could be on their way out is Stephen Strasburg. According to John Perrotto of USA Today, the first pick in the 2009 draft is available to be traded:
The one thing that could help the Nationals with trading Strasburg as opposed to Jordan Zimmermann is the extra year of team control. Strasburg is not a free agent until after the 2016 season.
When you look at the history between the Nats and Strasburg, you have to go back to 2012 when the team shut him down due to an innings limit, causing him to miss the postseason run for Washington. When the organization shut him down, Strasburg said this in an article that appeared in the Washington Post:
"“I don’t know if I’m ever going to accept it, to be honest,” Strasburg said. “It’s something that I’m not happy about at all. That’s not why I play the game. I play the game to be a good teammate and win. You don’t grow up dreaming about playing in the big leagues to get shut down when the games start to matter. It’s going to be a tough one to swallow.” (h/t Washington Post)"
Remember that Strasburg’s agent is Scott Boras. While the Nationals have many Boras clients on their roster, including the aforementioned Scherzer, we know that Boras always seeks and usually gets the top dollar for his premier clients. Strasburg is one of those premier clients, when you look at his numbers.
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In the last three seasons, the 2012 All-Star is 37-26 and has had an ERA of no higher than 3.16 in any of those years. Even with being shut down in 2012, Strasburg’s starts have increased each of the last seasons, going from 28 in 2012 to 34 last season.
The 26-year old right-hander has shown to be one of the top strikeout pitchers in the National League. Last season, he struck out 242 batters, which was tied with Reds’ ace Johnny Cueto for the most in the NL.
At the beginning of January, Tim Richer of District On Deck wrote an article discussing who the Nats should keep if they only had a choice of one: Zimmermann or Strasburg. He made the case for Strasburg, but I would side with Zimmermann on this one because of his ability to go deep into games.
Strasburg’s strikeouts are very impressive, but there are other stats that give him the slight edge. In 2014, Strasburg went into the seventh inning in 18 of his 34 starts while Zimmermann went that far into games in 13 of his starts, but that also includes two complete games. Zimmermann had 11 games with a pitch count of 100 or higher and Strasburg had 12, including four games of 110+ pitches or more.
Teams will be calling the Nationals about their starting pitching, if they haven’t already. It might seem that Strasburg could be on the way out because of the history with the organization, but the Nats have plenty of time to decide whether they want to trade Strasburg.
That extra year of team control is the key because as evident by the Scherzer signing, it looks like the Nationals are building to win the World Series in 2015. Strasburg can play a part in that and if the team wants to trade them, they could always deal the young pitcher next offseason, if teams don’t offer a deal that GM Mike Rizzo likes this year.