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Strasburg signs record-setting free agent deal to remain with Nationals

Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg

Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals set a new league record with their free agent signing of pitcher Stephen Strasburg to a seven-year, $245m (€221m) deal.

Both the overall value of the contract and the $35m average annual value for Strasburg, this year’s World Series Most Valuable Player for the Nationals, are new all-time highs for a free agent MLB pitcher, beating a $217m contract David Price has with the Boston Red Sox, and the $31.5m average salary for Houston’s Zack Greinke. But each of Strasburg’s numbers could be shattered in the coming days as fellow free agent pitcher Gerrit Cole is expected to receive an even larger contract.

Last week, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club could only afford to keep either Strasburg or their other big free agent, third baseman Anthony Rendon, and not both. It remains to be seen what will happen with Rendon, who is being pursued by multiple clubs. But the Nationals said keeping Strasburg was a key priority after winning their first-ever championship in October.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said such a lengthy deal for a pitcher was a risk. But he he added of Strasburg, “we know this person, we know his character, we know his work ethic.”

The massive size of the contract also helps jumpstart an overall MLB free agent market that thus far has shown considerably more life than the past two off-seasons. That relative lack of player activity help heighten labor tensions between the league and MLB Players Association. 

Strasburg’s new deal came after he opted out of a prior contract with the Nationals that would have paid him $100m over the next four years. He was the first overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.