Heading into the 2015 offseason, the Washington Nationals are expected to lose two franchise players in shortstop Ian Desmond and starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. Both Desmond and Zimmermann have been with the team since their careers began, including Desmond being drafted by the Montreal Expos. Sure, the Nationals will add new players this winter for 2016, but they need to make sure they extend Stephen Strasburg‘s contract past next season.
It was an up-and-down season for Strasburg in Washington, but he ended his year on a great note. Over his final ten starts, Strasburg went 6-2 with a 1.80 ERA, held opponents to a .179 batting average and had 92 strikeouts to only eight walks. The 27-year-old right-hander battled ankle, back, and oblique injuries this season, but he did not have any issues wit his arm.
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As of right now, Strasburg’s contract expires at the end of the 2016 season. While there are big name pitching free agents out this winter like Zimmermann, David Price, Johnny Cueto, and potentially Zack Greinke (has opt-out clause), there aren’t many high quality pitching free agents out on the market next season. We don’t know what can change in a year, but if you look at the list right now, Strasburg is one of the best, if not the best starting pitcher on the market.
Last offseason, the Nats players watched as Max Scherzer signed a free agent deal with the organization worth $210 million. I’m sure pitchers like Zimmermann and Strasburg were wondering why some of that money didn’t go to them. The challenge to signing Strasburg to an extension will be that his agent, Scott Boras, doesn’t usually have his clients sign extensions and instead has them test the free agent market.
There is so much history with the Nationals and Strasburg, whether it was selecting him number one in the 2009 MLB Draft or when the team shut him down before the 2012 postseason. But, as the organization saw down the stretch, when Strasburg is healthy, he is one of the best pitchers in the game.
Yes, Strasburg probably his trade market down the stretch and the team has young pitchers such as Joe Ross (debuted this season) and Lucas Giolito, but this is where the Nats need to extend one of their top pitchers because they probably won’t get much for a pitcher who is on the final year of his deal. Plus, according to MLB Trade Rumors, Strasburg is projected to make $10.3 million in arbitration this year.
There is a chance for this team o have a great 1-2 in the rotation of Scherzer and Strasburg for years to come if Mike Rizzo and company are able to get an extension done before the 2016 season. Otherwise, there is a chance one of the best draft picks in Nats’ history could be wearing another uniform in the 2017 season.