WASHINGTON (AP) — Stephen Strasburg is skipping his first shot at free agency, instead agreeing to a new contract with the Washington Nationals that will pay the pitcher $175 million over seven seasons starting in 2017, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday night — while Strasburg was pitching against the Detroit Tigers — because the Nationals had not announced the deal.
After the Nationals' 5-4 victory, in which he allowed four runs on a pair of homers in seven-plus innings but did not get a decision, Strasburg deflected questions about his contract, saying: "I don't really have a comment about that right now."
Asked about his comfort level in Washington, Strasburg answered: "Growing up in Southern California, San Diego, all my life and stuff, the East Coast is a little bit of a change. But the city of D.C. has been great to me and my family. It's really grown on us. We're very comfortable here."
Rather than heading to the open market, Strasburg took a sure thing right now, eliminating any worries about the possibility of an injury lowering what a team might be willing to pay this offseason. So he will stay with the Nationals, the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009 and — in a move debated around baseball — shut him down before the playoffs in his NL All-Star season of 2012 to protect his surgically repaired right elbow.
By agreeing to a deal now, Strasburg leaves a weaker free-agent class in his wake, because he would have been the No. 1 pitcher available.
The 27-year-old Strasburg entered Wednesday's start with a 59-37 career record and a 3.06 ERA across 138 appearances, all starts. He led the National League in strikeouts with 242 in 2014.
"His mental state of mind, his calmness, is a whole lot better, I heard, than it used to be, where some of the small things don't affect him as much," Nationals first-year manager Dusty Baker said. "We had a conversation in the spring about that he's no longer an underclassman. He's been here a while."
Strasburg will go from making $7.4 million this season to earning $25 million annually from 2017-23. The new deal's total dollars match the 2013-19 contract of Seattle's Felix Hernandez for the sixth-highest among big league pitchers.
The new contract has an escape clause, though: Strasburg can opt out and become a free agent after the 2019 or 2020 seasons.
Strasburg would earn a $1 million performance bonus each year for pitching 180 innings.
David Price's deal with the Boston Red Sox that started this season is worth a record $217 million over seven years. Another one of the handful of deals for a pitcher that tops Strasburg's is the one his Nationals teammate Max Scherzer received as a free agent before last season, paying $210 million, although half of that is deferred money.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.