Hello and goodbye

It seems like just yesterday that Stephen Strasburg made one of the most anticipated professional sports debuts in history. But in a couple of days, the 27-year-old may be approaching his final spring training with the Nationals. Strasburg avoided arbitration with the Nats last month, agreeing to play the final year of his contract in Washington for a reported $10.4 million.

At the Winter Meetings in December, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was asked about the possibility of signing Strasburg to an extension before the 2016 season.

"We've always tried to think about our core players, to extend them to contracts," Rizzo said. "We tried to with several of the players that have left us for free agency in the past. I can see we would do the same for him."

Stephen Strasburg blue close.pngTo no one's surprise, a deal was never completed, and according to Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com, Strasburg's agent, Scott Boras, says no active contract extension talks are ongoing.

"We amicably agreed to a one-year deal (for 2016)," Boras told FOXSports.com. "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."

Strasburg will arguably be the most coveted free agent starting pitcher next offseason and most feel it's unlikely he remains in Washington, especially after the Nationals inked ace right-hander Max Scherzer to record $210 million contract last January and with Bryce Harper's mega-deal looming on the horizon.

With right-hander Jordan Zimmermann leaving under similar circumstances this winter, the Nationals obviously need the best from Strasburg in his contract year. If he can carry over the his stellar performance at the end of last season - when he went 6-2 with a 1.90 ERA and 92 strikeouts with only eight walks in his final 10 starts - maybe the Nats get a Cy Young winner and meaningful baseball in October in return.

So that brings me to another difficult farewell, though this one is definite. As many of you are already aware, I've decided to return to the world of broadcast media, taking over as director of programming at ESPN 980 here in the D.C. area.

I thoroughly enjoyed the past year-plus at MASNsports.com and considered it a tremendous privilege to bring you Nationals coverage every day. It was an experience I will always cherish - not just to be in the press box for both of Scherzer's electrifying no-hitters or every majestic blast from Harper, but also the daily interaction with all the loyal Nationals fans and especially the occasional conversations at the ballpark.

I think you'll be happy with who I'll be passing the baton to, tomorrow. And I promise when you join us on ESPN 980, you will find significantly increased Nationals coverage in 2016, including hearing from many of the familiar MASN baseball voices.

Thanks to MASN's Pete Kerzel, Olivia Witherite, Bobby Blanco and Dan Kolko for their help and direction. It was truly a pleasure covering Nationals baseball alongside some highly talented people at MASN who have a deep passion for the game.

So a final prediction on here: Like last year, I'm hoping for a parade down Constitution Avenue in early November with Harper hoisting the trophy high atop the Washington Monument. (By the way, that dugout speech from Harper last spring training was certainly a highlight.) But I'll lower the expectations for the Nats a bit this year and just say they'll be in the playoffs. However, I'll go out on a bit of a limb and take Strasburg as the National League Cy Young Award winner.

Check us out on ESPN 980 and I'll see you at the ballpark!

Non-roster invitees announced: Over the course of the offseason, we've learned in dribs and drabs that the Nats had signed players to minor league contracts with spring training invites. Yesterday, the team formally announced its list of 20 non-roster invitees:

Right-handers Bronson Arroyo, Michael Brady, Erik Davis, Paolo Espino, Lucas Giolito, Taylor Hill, Nick Masset, Wander Suero and Austin Voth; left-handers Sean Burnett and Aaron Laffey; catcher Jhonatan Solano; infielders Jason Martinson, Brendan Ryan, Scott Sizemore and Matt Skoke; and outfielders Tony Campana, Chris Heisey, Reed Johnson and Logan Schafer.

A re-introduction to the Nats ... and me
Nationals announce 2016 non-roster invitees

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