There is an increasing belief around baseball that Stephen Strasburg will opt out of his contract with the Washington Nationals. Will he stay put for more money, or test the free-agent market–possibly the Chicago Cubs?
Jon Morosi reports that Stephen Strasburg is increasingly likely to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract when the season ends.
It’s no secret that the Chicago Cubs have a ton of money coming off the books, and they will need pitching sooner rather than later. Strasburg would immediately become one of the two best pitchers available along with Gerrit Cole. And there is no reason why the Cubs should not be trying to sign at least one of the pitchers.
We talked about how much Cole made sense for the rotation a few weeks ago, and Strasburg makes sense for many of the same reasons.
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For starters, Strasburg misses bats, averaging 10.8 K/9, while only walking less than three hitters per nine innings. He leads the National League in strikeouts with 222. Cole leads the Majors in strikeouts with 266. To reiterate, the Cubs desperately NEED a pitcher that can miss bats at the top of the rotation.
Strasburg has been worth 5.3 RA9-WAR, according to Fangraphs, which is an equivalent to hitter WAR. That number ranks sixth in all of baseball. Strasburg gives up just 29.6 percent of hard contact on batted balls, which is just the third least amount in baseball. Strasburg’s groundball rate is 50 percent, which is 11th in baseball. And with the Cubs (typically) good infield defense in Wrigley, which can sometimes be hurtful to pitchers, Strasburg would be a perfect fit.
It’s simply not that easy, though; one thing to be aware of is his injury history, this will be only his third season of making 30+ starts. He has had Tommy John surgery, missing nearly a full season in 2011, and numerous nagging injuries have followed him throughout his career, and now that he’s getting up there in age, nagging injuries can take longer to recover from, ala Yu Darvish in 2018.
Strasburg has only pitched 200+ innings once but looks to be on his way to the second 200-inning of his career this season. He’s 15 innings away with three starts left in the middle of a playoff race, so the Nats will probably ride him as much as they can with the suspect bullpen they have.
There is no wrong answer with Gerrit Cole or Strasburg, and both would fit this roster. It’s a matter of whether both players are interested in playing for the Cubs. The big thing about free agency is the player’s choice, and if neither of them wants to play for the Cubs, there isn’t much the team can do, but that by no means does not mean they shouldn’t try.