Why not have Stephen Strasburg debut on June 1?

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The idea already made plenty of sense. Now it seems like the obvious choice with Edwin Jackson getting inserted into Washington’s rotation.

Adding Jackson to a rotation that already included Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan gives the Nationals seven viable starters, with Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler currently in reserve (Tom Gorzelanny could also be included in that mix, but the Nationals view him strictly as a reliever now). The big issue, though, is that the best of those starters is only expected to throw about 160 innings this season after missing most of 2011 following Tommy John surgery.

So, if Strasburg starts the first week of the season and doesn’t miss any time, he’s probably going to run out of innings in mid-August. Which isn’t so bad if the Nationals are content to win 70 games this year. However, after adding Jackson and Gonzalez, the Nationals can at least dream of the wild card. The offense will need bounce-back seasons from Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, but the cause is hardly hopeless.

Which means the Nationals should just scratch Strasburg from spring training. Instead of having him start to gear up in mid-February, have him do it in mid-April instead. Such a plan would keep him available for the entire month of September and then into October, on the off chance the Nationals make it. They’ll certainly be willing to stretch that innings limit a bit if they get to the postseason.

And, yeah, I know a win in April is just as valuable as a win in September… such a strategy wouldn’t necessarily improve the Nationals’ record. But then again, it might. The Nationals’ other six starters are a whole lot more likely to all be healthy on April 1 than on September 1. Given their light workloads of late, Zimmermann and Wang in particular are candidates to wear down as the season goes on. A start that doesn’t go to Strasburg in April will go to Wang or Detwiler instead. A start that doesn’t go to Strasburg in September might instead go to Yunesky Maya or Craig Stammen.

There is one big con to my plan: what to do about Strasburg’s roster status during the two months he’s off. Strasburg has options left, so the Nationals have the ability to send him down to the minors. If they tried doing so, though, agent Scott Boras would likely pitch a fit and file a grievance since Strasburg would lose a couple of months of service time. It’d be better just to put him on the disabled list, allowing Strasburg to continue to accrue his service time. MLB doesn’t have such a provision for putting a healthy player on the DL, but since it can be argued that Strasburg is still completing his rehab from Tommy John surgery, maybe this one could slide.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.