Strasburg Signs With Nationals, Slated To Start Every Day

Our long Nationals nightmare is over. Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's MLB draft, has signed a four-year deal worth $15.1 million, immediately making him the best pitcher in the franchise's brief tenure in Washington without so much as stepping on the mound to throw a pitch. And, per the Washington Post, it didn't even have to go down to the last minute: ↵
↵⇥For weeks, the pitcher and the organization had been locked into the highest-stakes contract negotiations in amateur history, and the 11th-hour deal left both sides on edge deep into the night, as the midnight deadline approached. But at 11:58 p.m. -- or, specifically, 11:58 and 43 seconds -- the sides, speaking by phone, agreed to terms, clearing the way for Strasburg to begin his professional career and for Washington to enter an era very much tied to the career of its newest, richest player. ↵⇥

↵⇥"People thought it would take until the last minute," Washington team president Stan Kasten said. "We didn't even need that last minute." ↵⇥

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↵Four years, $15 million, plus incentives. It's the richest rookie deal in baseball history, eclipsing the record-setting deal Mark Prior signed in 2001 by nearly five-million dollars. But Strasburg is a once-in-a-generation pitcher, so he's clearly worth the money. ↵

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↵Actually, there have been several once-in-a-generation pitchers, and few have ever panned out, especially in this generation. The top pick in the MLB draft was a pitcher nine of the last 20 years. Since 1989, here a the list of 'can't miss' pitchers who were taken with the top pick in the draft: Ben McDonald, Brien Taylor, Paul Wilson, Kris Benson, Matt Anderson, Bryan Bullington, Luke Hochevar and David Price. While Price helped the Rays get to the World Series last year, and Hochevar is starting for Kansas City -- remember he was drafted by the Dodgers twice, including in the first-round in 2005, before the Royals took him first overall in 2006 -- that list isn't exactly filling out a starting rotation in Cooperstown. ↵

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↵Let's go back to that 2001 draft as well, when the Twins had the first-overall pick and chose a more signable player in high school catcher Joe Mauer rather than going for the 'can't miss' guy in Prior. Prior's career has been riddled with injuries – I say has been as if he's still in the league at all – while Mauer is on pace to be one of the greatest catchers of all time. What looked to be a financial decision to pass up on a once-in-a-generation pitcher ended up being one of the shrewdest baseball decisions in quite some time. ↵

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↵The point is simple: There have been lots of once-in-a-generation players because that's what agents want us to think, and scouts always want to take credit for the next 'can't miss' guy. And sure, Strasburg might be the 'can't missiest' of the 'can't missers' in the last 20 years, but the next time we do this once-in-a-generation pitcher exercise in a few years, when Bryce Harper or the next kid like him decides to be a pitcher, let's remember the Nationals just gave a college kid $15 million dollars over four years, with no guarantees he'll be ready to spend even half that time with the major league club. ↵

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↵Don't get me wrong, the Nats had to sign Strasburg. The kid is the best pitcher to come out of college since Prior, and had Prior not broken down with devastating injuries, he would be one of the best pitchers in baseball right now. The Nats failed to sign their first-round pick last season, and back-to-back drafts without signing a first-rounder could set the franchise back a decade. Frankly, the Nationals don't have that much time. ↵

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↵So the Strasburg signing isn't as much about the next four years as it is about today. The Nationals have been a moribund franchise since moving to Washington. But now they have shown their fans they are serious about playing baseball in our nation's capital. Strasburg immediately becomes the fifth-highest paid player on the team, and if he can get into the minors and work on getting back into throwing shape, he should give the Nationals a few late-season sellouts this season, and some hope for the future. ↵

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↵For today, and they hope for a long time coming, the Nationals aren't failures anymore. If they are smart, the Nats will have Strasburg jerseys lining the shelves of the team store for tonight's game against the Rockies. Let's just hope they spell his name right. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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