Stephen Strasburg is returning to Washington with a record contract, and fellow free agent pitcher Gerrit Cole could be in line for an even larger payday.
The World Series MVP and the Nationals agreed to a $245 million, seven-year contract Monday, the first significant announcement at this week’s winter meetings.
A 31-year-old right-hander, Strasburg received the highest deal for a pitcher in both total dollars and average annual value at $35 million. The largest contract for a pitcher had been David Price’s $217 million, seven-year deal with Boston that began in 2016. The highest average value had been Zack Greinke’s $34.4 million as part of a $206.5 million, six-year agreement with Arizona prior to the 2016 season.
“We would not have won the 2019 World Series or accomplished everything we have these last 10 seasons if not for Stephen’s many contributions,” Nationals owner Mark Lerner said in a statement.
Strasburg gets $35 million annually, with $80 million deferred — about $11.4 million a year. The deferred money is payable from 2028-30.
The contract sets a floor for Cole, who is expected to top the records Strasburg just set.
Cole, whose Astros lost to the Nationals in a seven-game World Series, is two years younger and has been healthier throughout his career. Like Strasburg, he’s represented by agent Scott Boras.
Strasburg was drafted first overall by Washington in 2009 and has spent his entire career with the Nationals. He’ll stay in a rotation that also features All-Stars Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin.
“He’s a wonderful person, a wonderful player and a true champion,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said at a news conference. “We know this person, we know his character, we know his work ethic.”
After helping win the first World Series title in the 51-season history of the Montreal/Washington franchise, Strasburg gave up $100 million he had been guaranteed from 2020-23 as part of a $175 million, seven-year contract he agreed to in May 2016 and became a free agent.
He was 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA this season, topping 30 starts for the second time in his career and leading the NL with 209 innings. He went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in five postseason starts and one relief appearance, including wins in Games 2 and 6 of the World Series against Houston.
In a career interrupted by Tommy John surgery shortly after his spectacular major league debut in 2010, Strasburg is 112-58 with a 3.17 ERA and 1,695 strikeouts in parts of 10 seasons. He’s made 10 trips to the disabled list over seven of those years.
Strasburg’s average annual value is second among all players behind outfielder Mike Trout’s $35.5 million in a $426.5 million, 12-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels that started last season.
Washington has invested heavily in starting pitching. Scherzer, also a Boras client, agreed to a $210 million, seven-year contract before the 2015 season. Corbin reached a $140 million, six-year deal last offseason.
Rizzo confirmed a pending $6.25 million, one-year deal to keep second baseman Howie Kendrick, one of Washington’s postseason stars. All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon, another key component of the Nationals’ title, also is a free agent represented by Boras.
“Ownership has always given us the resources to field a great term,” Rizzo said. “I don’t expect that to change.”