One Contract the Nationals Regret Offering

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins
Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Washington Nationals are notorious for not offering expensive contracts to their star players, just look at Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and now Juan Soto. However, they did offer Stephen Strasburg a 7-year, $245 million contract after the 2019 World Series. 

The 2019 World Series MVP proved to the world that he deserved that contract, however, he hasn’t been on the field for the Nationals to get their money’s worth. 

Before we dive into the negative side of things, let’s look at the positives. The Washington Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg in the 2009 MLB Draft out of San Diego State University. He made his Nationals debut in 2010 pitching in 12 games, posting a 5-3 record. Stras started off hot, fanning 14 batters in his Nationals debut. In 2012, the right hander certified himself as a star in the league by posting a 15-6 record with a 3.16 ERA, the same year that the Nationals notoriously shut down Strasburg due to injury. Little did we know the best was yet it come. There were ups and downs and injuries in between, but skipping a couple of years to 2019, Strasburg recorded 18 wins, going 18-5 with a 3.32 ERA. Strasburg would go on to have a 5-0 record in the 2019 postseason and being a key factor in the 2019 World Series win. He would also win the World Series MVP for his efforts.

Strasburg picked the right time to have a career year, as he opted out of his current contract with the Nationals in search of a longer deal. The Nationals were aggressive in their pursuit to retain Strasburg and were ultimately successful as they agreed to a seven year pact. The Nationals, their fans, and probably even Stephen Strasburg himself thought it was going to be a prosperous continuation to his already illustrious stint with the franchise, but unfortunately it has not gotten off to a great start.

Strasburg would be limited in both 2020 and 2021 due to injury, pitching in only 26.2 innings over the two seasons. In July of 2021, Strasburg had thoracic outlet surgery, or TOS. Thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of disorders that occur when blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and your first rib are compressed. What does this mean? This can cause shoulder and neck pain and numbness in your fingers. It is a very difficult injury for any player to return from and even more difficult to regain your previous form. After throwing in a bullpen session in 2022, Strasburg had a setback that the Nationals called a “stress reaction of the ribs.”

Nationals' Manager Dave Martinez said he doesn’t want to think negative about the situation. He says its not an issue of if Strasburg will play again, but rather when will he play again. Although Martinez seems to think positive, its hard for Nationals fans not to think negative. The lastest update on Strasburg is that he has had yet another setback. During this past offseason, Strasburg was throwing bullpen sessions. The first one went great, but during the second session Strasburg had some nerve issues. “The next day, he just didn’t rebound as he thought he would,” manager Dave Martinez said the Wednesday following the first pitchers and catchers workout. While the Nationals have already reported to West Palm Beach, Florida for spring training, Strasburg did not as he is seeing specialists and rehabbing in the Nation's capital. 

Strasburg has always had injury issues, but the upside to him being healthy seemed to be worth the risk. However, since inking his name on the dotted line in 2020, Stras has only pitched in 8 games, and has had 5 injuries that have kept him out of action. Not only did the Nationals pay Strasburg $245 million, but the Nationals could have used that money for other players. Anthony Rendon signed the exact same contract that Stras did during that offseason, $245 million for 7 years. Could this have been enough to put the Nats over the top in their efforts extend Juan Soto? Could this have stopped the rebuild? Maybe the Nationals wouldn’t have traded away Turner and Scherzer to the Dodgers. The future of the Nationals depended on the contract of Stephen Strasburg, and the future could have been completely different.