The Nationals are going to do the right thing and limit Stephen Strasburg’s innings this year. Contrary to what Jon Heyman and Peter Gammons have reported in the past, however, they are not obligated to do so by contract. That’s the story from MASN’s Ben Goessling, who spoke to Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo about it:
“I’m under no obligation to do that,” Rizzo said. “I do what’s best for
the players and what’s best for the Washington Nationals. We develop the
player. The agency doesn’t develop the player. The player doesn’t
develop the player. There certainly was no agreement, written or
unwritten, or perceived or unperceived, whatever it is.”
According to Goessling the team talked with Boras last year about their
plans to limit Strasburg’s workload, but no deal was struck. And really, it strains credulity that a team would cede on-the-field considerations like innings counts and the like to the player via agreement, written or unwritten.
Makes me wonder, though, what Gammons and Heyman were working off of when they reported to the contrary. They have to know that such a move is unprecedented. Likewise Boras has no incentive that I can see to make something like that up. Crossed wires, I guess.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.