Stephen Strasburg got mixed reviews for his performance last season. The former No. 1 overall pick compiled an 11-7 record for the Washington Nationals, striking out 155 batters over 127.1 innings, his fewest since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2011.
That down year, however, won’t stop him and his agent, Scott Boras, from testing free agency at the end of the 2016 season.
“We amicably agreed to a one-year deal [for 2016],” Boras told to FOX Sports on Monday. “He’s going to pitch, and we’ll see where it goes from there. It’s something we’ll be discussing at the end of the year.”
In the first half of the season, Strasburg was clearly hampered by neck and oblique strains. His strikeout rate remained high (9.3 per nine innings) but he battled with his command, allowing 2.7 walks per nine innings. He got unlucky, as well: batters produced a .355 batting average on balls in play. Strasburg then dominated the second half, seeing a rise in strikeouts (12.5 per nine) with a corresponding decline in walks (1.1 per nine) and power against (.306 slugging).
Per Fangraphs, his 3.4 wins above replacement were worth $27.1 million on the open market, for which Strasburg was paid $7.4 million. Steamer projects Strasburg to produce 3.4 fWAR in 2016 in exchange for a $10.4 million salary, bringing his total value to $173 million for which Washington would have paid $35.5 million, including 2016 projections and salary.
If we use Steamer’s 3.4 fWAR in 2016 as the start of an aging curve we can begin to assess Strasburg’s future value. According to work done by Bill Petti at Fangraphs, starting pitchers start to decline after turning 27, which means we may have seen the best Strasburg has to offer. It won’t be an abrupt decline, but we can assume his performance will start to taper off from here on out. If we assume his wins above replacement will decrease each year by half a win for aging effects, and the cost in free agency will rise by five percent per year, Strasburg would be worth $151 million on a five-year deal beginning in 2017 and close to $200 million over a 10-year span.