Nationals re-sign Stephen Strasburg to seven-year, $245 million deal

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Jon Heyman reports that the Nationals have re-signed free agent starter Stephen Strasburg. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the deal is for seven years and $245 million. It’s a record for both annual average value and total value for a free agent pitcher. According to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports, $80 million of the total value of the contract is deferred, in true Nationals fashion. Deferrals reduce the present-day value of the deal. [Update: Per Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal, $80 million is deferred with interest, which won’t affect the present-day value.]

Strasburg, 31, opted out of his previous contract with the Nationals last month. He had four years and $100 million remaining on what was a seven-year, $175 million extension. By opting out, Strasburg fetched an extra three years and close to $145 million.

During the past regular season, Strasburg led the National League with 18 wins and 209 innings pitched while compiling a 3.32 ERA and racking up 251 strikeouts opposite only 56 walks. He shined in the postseason, limiting the opposition to nine runs on 30 hits and four walks with 47 strikeouts across 36 1/3 innings. Strasburg’s performance earned him World Series MVP honors as the Nationals won their first championship in franchise history.

Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner recently said that his team can’t afford to bring back both Strasburg and free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon, so the Strasburg signing seems to also imply that Rendon is headed for greener pastures.

Strasburg’s contract will have a major effect on free agent starter Gerrit Cole, as he is expected to fetch more than Strasburg. It is now quite realistic that Cole approaches or perhaps even exceeds $300 million in total value.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.