Sources: Nationals, Strasburg reach agreement on retirement terms

The Nationals and Stephen Strasburg have finally reached agreement on financial terms of the right-hander’s contract that allowed him to officially retire from baseball today.

A formal announcement is still forthcoming, but two sources familiar with the agreement confirmed it has been finalized with terms amenable to both the pitcher and the organization, ending a long and protracted negotiation that threatened to ruin the Nats’ relationship with one of the most important players in club history. Major League Baseball's official transactions log shows Strasburg retired today.

Strasburg has not been able to pitch since June 9, 2022, when he made his one and only major league start of that season, giving up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in Miami. Unable to fully overcome the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome, even after his 2021 surgery, he finally conceded last year another comeback would not be possible.

Strasburg and the Nationals had plans to formally announce his retirement in early September 2023, but those plans were scrapped only days before the expected ceremony when the two sides couldn’t agree on the financial details of the arrangement.

Strasburg, who signed a seven-year, $245 million extension in December 2019, less than two months after winning World Series MVP honors, is still owed a little more than $100 million over the next three years. His contract, like all long-term major league contracts, was guaranteed, but the Nationals wanted to alter those terms, or at least spread out his remaining payments over a longer period of time, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

When Strasburg and his agent, Scott Boras, would not agree to changing those terms, the Nats insisted on keeping the pitcher on the 40-man roster all winter and on Thursday placed him back on the 60-day injured list.

General manager Mike Rizzo, while conceding there was no expectation Strasburg could rehab with the goal of pitching again, expressed a hope the right-hander would at least report to spring training and help mentor the team’s young players. Strasburg never did come to West Palm Beach, Fla., and his locker remained untouched throughout camp.

“We’re discussing things with Strasburg’s camp, and we hope we get something settled with that, so we can embrace the man like he’s supposed to be embraced,” Rizzo said March 12.

Strasburg still has a locker with his nameplate and jersey hanging inside the clubhouse at Nationals Park but has not appeared publicly before, during or after any games so far this season.

With a five-year anniversary celebration of the 2019 World Series planned for later this month when the Astros come to D.C., and a number of players from that team expected to attend, Strasburg’s absence would have loomed large. It’s unlikely he would have appeared at the ballpark that weekend before coming to this agreement, not wanting to distract from the rest of the event.

Strasburg’s formal retirement comes nearly two years after he last threw a pitch, more than four years after he last pitched regularly and effectively for the Nationals. After leading the league in wins (18) and innings (209) and finishing fifth in Cy Young Award voting in 2019, then going 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in the postseason, he made only eight more big league starts over the next three seasons, beset with injuries.

Carpal tunnel surgery brought an end to Strasburg’s 2020 season, then the thoracic outlet surgery came in July 2021, just as the Nationals were beginning to tear down their roster and embark on a massive organizational rebuild. He returned to make the one start in June 2022, and actually was encouraged by how he felt in the immediate aftermath, but got hurt again trying to throw off a bullpen mound a few days later.

It was an unfortunate – and lengthy – end to a career that included some of the greatest highs in Nationals history and some of the most frustrating moments as well.

Selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Strasburg burst onto the scene one year later with his nationally televised debut, striking out 14 batters in seven innings and making every ensuing start after that a major event.

His rookie season ended after only 12 starts when he tore his elbow ligament throwing a changeup in Philadelphia, requiring Tommy John surgery. He returned in September 2011, then was enjoying a dominant and healthy season in 2012 when the Nats stuck with their predetermined plan to shut him down for the final month, even though the team was heading to the playoffs for the first time.

Strasburg would end up making 247 starts across parts of 13 seasons, finishing with a 113-62 record, 3.24 ERA and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He was named to three All-Star teams, received Cy Young votes three times and MVP votes once.

Perhaps the most telling stat about Strasburg’s importance to the Nationals’ success: He made 24 or more starts in six big league seasons, and the team made the playoffs in all but one of them (2013). He made fewer than 24 starts seven times, and the team did not make the playoffs in any of them.

Game 9 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies
Game 5 lineups: Nats vs. Pirates

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