Chicago Cubs see what loyalty looks like in Stephen Strasburg deal
As the Washington Nationals lock up their franchise icon pitcher, the Chicago Cubs are seemingly devoted to unloading the team’s premier talent.
Coming off the first World Series championship in franchise history, the Washington Nationals made a huge splash on the first day of the Winter Meetings. The club re-signed hurler Stephen Strasburg to a record-breaking seven-year, $245 million contract – preventing him from departing in free agency.
The deal sets the high-water mark both in terms of total value and AAV for a pitcher – topping David Price‘s $217 million deal with the Boston Red Sox and Zack Greinke‘s AAV in his previous deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. For the Nats, it represents a big moment. Of course, Washington drafted the right-hander with the first overall pick back in 2009.
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Now that he helped lead the organization to a title, Strasburg is getting rewarded in a big way. This year, not only did he bring home World Series MVP honors, but he finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting, tossing a league-best 209 innings while working to a 3.25 FIP and 1.038 WHIP.
This deal doesn’t directly impact the Cubs‘ offseason plans. Given their seemingly apparent desire to get back under the luxury tax threshold, this team was never going to seriously pursue someone like Strasburg or fellow free agent Gerrit Cole – who could earn in excess of $300 million in wake of the Strasburg deal.
But it will definitely hit some Chicago fans hard. Washington rewarded Strasburg, who has re-emerged as a franchise icon, with big money – record-setting money, in fact. Meanwhile, the Cubs are reportedly shopping their former Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and World Series champion third baseman Kris Bryant.
You might not think there are parallels between the two – but you’d be mistaken. Both received near-limitless fanfare as minor leaguers and were heralded as prospective saviors for their respective franchises. Bryant helped the Cubs erase 108 years of disappointment in just his second year in the league, winning NL MVP honors in the process. Strasburg took some more time, but he also delivered a ring for the Nats – erasing another lengthy title drought in baseball.
To this point, though, there has been little in the way of contract discussions between Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, and the Cubs organization. We heard rumblings last winer – but nothing ever came of them and the initial reports were actually disputed.
Bryant and the team continue to work through their grievance over service time manipulation – which may be playing a role in all this, as well. But the Cubs have been unwilling to put their money where their mouth is and give one of the best players in the game a contract worthy of his performance.
If you’re someone who measures offensive success in runs batted in – quit reading now. There’s no convincing you. Despite battling through his share of injuries over the last two years, Bryant has been a well above-average offensive player, to say the least.
He bounced back from his injury-plagued 2018 to put up a 135 wRC+ and 4.8 Fangraphs WAR last year for the Cubs – but you’d never know it by listening to fans. Don’t get me wrong, Bryant’s capable of even more than what we got in 2019. But he’s still an elite talent. Period.
So as we watch former Chicago bench coach Davey Martinez relish in the fact that he’s got a team loaded with young talent and a trio of powerful aces in the rotation, we’re now staring a rebuild or reloading (or whatever you want to call it) on the North Side that may very well see Kris Bryant move on from the Friendly Confines.