Following a strong year and an even better postseason, Strasburg, 31, is forgoing the remaining four years and $100 million left on the seven-year/$175 million deal he signed before the 2017 campaign. The righthander immediately becomes the second-most coveted starting pitcher on the free agent market this winter, behind only his World Series opponent Gerrit Cole, 29, who was the best pitcher in baseball over the final five months of the year.
Strasburg was expected to enter free agency even before his masterful postseason. In the regular season, he led the National League in wins (18) and innings pitched (209), and ranked second with 251 strikeouts, fifth in WHIP (1.038) and 10th in ERA (3.32). Perhaps most important was his durability this season, considering his injury history and age—teams have shied away in recent years from giving big contracts to starting pitchers in their 30s.
Then, of course, came his remarkable performance in the playoffs. In six appearances (five starts), Strasburg went 5–0 with a 1.98 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings, and the Nats won each of the six games he pitched. This all but officially guaranteed he’d be opting out of his deal.
Strasburg has spent his entire 10-year career with the Nats after they selected him first overall out of San Diego State in the 2009 amateur draft. He has a 112–58 lifetime record with a 3.17 ERA and 1,695 strikeouts. On May 2, he recorded the 1,500th strikeout of his career. He needed just 1,272 1/3 innings to reach the milestone, making him the fastest pitcher in MLB history to get to that mark. In nine career postseason games (eight starts), Strasburg is 6–2 with a 1.46 ERA in 55 1/3 innings.
He made his MLB debut on June 8, 2010 against the Pirates in Washington and delivered a performance worthy of his astronomical prospect hype; he went seven innings, allowed two runs, four hits, no walks and struck out 14 in a 5–2 win.
Before pitching the Nationals to their first World Series title in franchise history, and first for a Washington team since 1924, Strasburg’s accomplishments were overshadowed by unrealistically high expectations and the 2012 postseason, when he was almost certainly the first healthy scratch for a pitcher in the playoffs. Washington elected to shut down its young, emerging talent to prevent him from re-injuring his arm after returning earlier that season from Tommy John surgery—and the Nats, with a major-league best 98 wins, were eliminated in the first round.