Strasburg was poised to enter a weak free agent market as a 28-year-old. Other soon-to-be free agent starters include Clay Buchholz, Rich Hill, Andrew Cashner, Mat Latos, and Ivan Nova. Anyone who has taken Economics 101 can tell you what that would have meant for Strasburg’s value.
When the initial report came in, estimates of Strasburg’s contract value often put it in excess of $200 million. When the $175 million figure was reported, it seemed comparatively low. Certainly, with David Price having signed a seven-year, $217 million deal with the Red Sox and Max Scherzer a seven-year, $210 million pact with Strasburg’s own Nationals, it seems reasonable to think that Strasburg could’ve done the same or better.
Strasburg, however, is not exactly a picture of perfect health. He underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2010 and didn’t return until September 2011. The right-hander has battled other injuries since then, including a back injury last year which resulted in offseason surgery to remove a non-cancerous growth in his back.
In a sport that has seen the likes of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee ascend from greatness into obscurity in the matter of a season, it’s hard to fault Strasburg for taking $175 million when it’s offered to him, especially when the contract includes opt-outs. Strasburg probably could have made more money in free agency after the season, but it might not have been with the exact terms he liked. And, if he was unlucky enough to suffer an injury during the remainder of this season, his free agent value would have plummeted quite a bit.
Clients of Scott Boras have typically pursued free agency, but Strasburg’s risk-aversion might have been stronger than the others’. At any rate, $175 million is still life-changing money.