How insurance plays a part in the Stephen Strasburg shutdown decision

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The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore is one of the best baseball writers around because, in addition to simply being a good writer and reporter, he’s smart and curious about the game and all that surrounds it. One of the reasons you don’t read a lot of cut-and-paste stories from him is that he thinks a lot about what’s interesting, not just about what’s there to be reported.

A good example today comes in his piece — not driven by some event or press release, but by his own curiosity — regarding the potential insurance ramifications of Stephen Strasburg pitching for the Nationals beyond the date the club his chosen to shut him down.

The short version: there is a good chance that, if Strasburg were to pitch against medical advice and get hurt, the Nationals would not be able to draw on any insurance they have for him and thus would have to cover his contract themselves. That’s not a small consideration, it seems.

At the same time, as Kilgore notes, it’s not like Strasburg is hurt now, so the “medical advice” against which he’d be pitching, is pretty damn speculative (i.e. there is no consensus on how to best handle a post Tommy John pitcher).

Taking it a step further, one wonders whether a fight between the Nats and an insurance company over this sort of thing would lead to a decision in which even the most overly-cautious approaches to a player’s health became the official reasonable standard for such things.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.