Nearly a month after World Series MVP pitcher Stephen Strasburg told the Washington Nationals that he had chosen to opt out of his contract and become a free agent, the 31-year-old righty remains unsigned. Initially, the Nationals were favored by most Major League Baseball experts to reacquire Strasburg. But according to one reporter for MLB.com, the fact that the Nats have yet to make a deal indicates that the race to sign Strasburg is now “a wide-open scenario.”
In fact, MLB.com correspondent J.P. Morosi said in an interview on MLB Network that even the Chicago White Sox may now “step forward” in the Strasburg race.
Last week, the White Sox inked free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal. The South Siders also extended the contract of slugging first baseman Jose Abreu, who tagged 33 home runs in the 2019 campaign. The club remains about $40 million short of its highest-ever opening-day payroll, which was $128 million in 2011, according to MLB Trade Rumors. That’s more than $130 million short of the 2020 luxury tax threshold.
In other words, the White Sox appear to have plenty of financial flexibility, potentially setting up owner Jerry Reinsdorf for a serious bid to sign Strasburg, which would instantly upgrade a starting rotation that was keyed last season by fourth-year righty Lucas Giolito.
While Morosi said that it “behooves” super-agent Scott Boras to keep Strasburg on the market as long as possible, in hopes of driving up the three-time All Star’s price tag, the Nationals still remain among the favorites to sign him.
Morosi’s view was echoed by his MLB.com colleague Will Leitch, who listed the Nats earlier this week as the “clear favorite” to ink Strasburg. The pitcher is “beloved” by the Washington, D.C., fan base, and the team “should have the payroll to keep him,” he added.
According to earlier rumors, the San Diego Padres — Strasburg’s hometown team — were expected to make a serious bid to bring the former San Diego State University star to Southern California.
But Leitch now says that the Friars “might not necessarily be eager to jump out and sign a big free agent.”
The club signed shortstop Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million deal before the 2019 season, and first baseman Eric Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million deal the previous winter. And all the Padres had to show for their expense last season was a 70-92 record, relegating them to last place in the National League West.
But while Morosi claims that if the Nationals fail to re-sign Strasburg, a Southern California team — possibly the Los Angeles Dodgers — would become the top favorite to sign the World Series MVP, Leitch believes that the pitcher could easily wind up in New York.
The Yankees, as pointed out by Leitch, are more likely to make former Houston Astros ace Gerrit Cole their top priority. However, “Strasburg would be a handy consolation prize,” he added.
“They know he can pitch in the postseason, which is a large part of what pitching for the Yankees means in the first place,” the MLB.com writer continued.
Leitch added that the Bombers would likely need to “blow [Strasburg] away” with a big-money, long-term deal, in order to lure him to the Bronx.