The Yankees have freshly been eliminated from the ALCS, so it’s time to look ahead to free agency and potentially Stephen Strasburg.
With the Yankees just being eliminated from the ALCS on Saturday, it is unfortunately now time to start looking at plans for the 2020 season. Ironically, it was the team’s reliable offense that went missing in the ALCS, not the starting pitching many thought was the team’s big question mark. With that being said, CC Sabathia’s retirement and Domingo Germán’s muddled future with the team leave starting pitching as an area that Brian Cashman and co. should look to improve this offseason. They could very well have two spots open in the rotation, as the only clear “locks” right now appear to be James Paxton, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, with Jordan Montgomery a possibility as well.
While many Yankees fans will (rightfully so) scream from the rooftops for Astros superstar Gerrit Cole this offseason, the team’s tendency to stay away from long term big money contracts in offseasons past suggests they may not make the strongest effort for Cole. However, there are still plenty of other solid starting pitching options available this offseason if Cole doesn’t ultimately decide to don the pinstripes, and one of them is a stud pitcher in his own right who would fit in very nicely to the Yankees’ plans in 2020 and beyond. Stephen Strasburg.
Stephen Strasburg‘s debut in 2010 was one of the most highly anticipated debuts in recent memory, especially for a pitcher. The first overall pick of the 2009 draft, Strasburg rose through the levels of the minor leagues at a rapid pace and debuted on June 8, 2010, just under one year to the day he was drafted. He punched out 14 batters in his debut, cementing himself as a future star in the league.
From the jump, it was clear Stephen Strasburg was legit and was here to stay. It’s safe to say that Strasburg’s career thus far has most certainly lived up to the hype. He’s been a horse for the Nationals, as his 209 innings pitched this season led the National League and he started 33 games, his most since starting a career-high 34 games in 2014. He also punched out a career-high 251 batters this season, showing no signs of slowing down even as he gets up there in age. His 4.48 strikeout/walk ratio was his highest since 2015.
If there’s one thing Yankees fans value when it comes to free agents, it’s the ability to come through in the playoffs when it matters most. Strasburg has had more than his fair share of playoff appearances with the Nationals, even reaching the World Series this season. In addition to being dominant in the regular season, Strasburg has shown that he’s able to perform well under the bright October lights as well. In his seven career playoff appearances (six starts), Strasburg has allowed just five earned runs in 41 innings pitched while striking out 57 hitters and walking just five.
His 38 innings pitched in six career playoff starts averages out to 6.1 innings per start, and this postseason has certainly shown the Yankees that even a dominant bullpen can wear out if starting pitchers consistently can’t pitch deep into games.
Beyond his impressive stats and near-flawless playoff resume, the other thing that must be taken into consideration when examining Strasburg as a free agent is his agent- Scott Boras. Boras is known for being as stubborn and competitive as they come among agents and in the past has been successful in getting his clients long-term big money deals, most recently when his client Bryce Harper signed a colossal 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies last offseason.
While Boras will certainly push for Strasburg to get a long term deal, the 31 year old right-hander might have hard time getting a 4-5 year deal and could instead settle for a shorter deal at a higher AAV (average annual value), while a pitcher like Cole will almost certainly not settle for a short-term deal. Something like 3 years and $60 million comes to mind as a possible contract that could work for both the Yankees and Strasburg.
Much like Cole, the Yankees could certainly use Strasburg, but if they have to severely break the bank for him, don’t be surprised if they pass on giving him a lucrative long term deal in the hope that his first few years as a Yankee make the ugly back end of the contract worth it.