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March 16, 2010


Don't start Strasburg's clock yet

by Russell A. Carleton

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Stop the hype! Stephen Strasburg is more valuable to the Washington Nationals as a minor leaguer than on the major league roster, even if he is the best pitcher in their camp. It's very simple, really. Once Strasburg begins to accumulate MLB roster time, he takes a step toward being arbitration-eligible, which means his price will eventually go up -- way up. Looking at another recent case, the San Francisco Giants hit arbitration time with Tim Lincecum this winter. They eventually avoided a hearing and signed Lincecum to a two-year deal worth $8 million in 2010 and $13 million in '11. That's a lot of money.

The Nationals will probably have to overpay a few free agents to come to DC if they want a shot at respectability, and even in a best-case scenario are a few years away from contention. They could use all the savings they can get their hands on, and having an ace pitcher who makes the league minimum is a heck of a savings plan. Leaving Strasburg in the minors, even if he is "ready," may not be putting the best major league team on the field. But, even with Strasburg, they won't make the playoffs this year. Why start his clock ticking?

Every time Strasburg goes out and pitches a couple of shutout innings against guys who are just putting in face time and guys who are buried in the fifth spot on the third-base depth chart for a reason, the media makes a point to report on this and write quietly rapturous stories, and the pressure builds to put him on the big league roster. He's got talent, and talent in gobs, but the more prudent move is to wait.

I know it's hard for Nats fans who have had to wait patiently for so long. They have an undoubtedly talented pitcher in their midst and they want to see results now! But it's probably the best strategy for the Nats to send Strasburg to Double-or Triple-A, and to gather a few more pieces to the puzzle. That way, when they bring him up, they will have saved some money for when they really need it.

Russell A. Carleton is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Russell's other articles. You can contact Russell by clicking here

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Not to be harsh, Russell, but this reads like a USA Today article.

Mar 16, 2010 21:28 PM
rating: -7

Dude, it's a blog post, not a full article.

Mar 17, 2010 10:36 AM
rating: 2

Nice, informative note in which we learn all about arb and the Nats. Thanks.

Mar 16, 2010 21:43 PM
rating: -2
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

It was an ESPN piece. They ask that we kepe it short and sweet.

Mar 16, 2010 21:51 PM

I believe the Nationals bought out Strasburg's first year of arbitration with the four year $15M+ deal he signed.

Mar 16, 2010 22:08 PM
rating: 1

Correct. According to Cot's, not counting his signing bonuse payments, his salary is the following:

2009: $0.4M (pro-rated)
2010: $2.0M
2011: $2.5M
2012: $3.0M

It has nothing to do with arbitration. It has everything to do with when he will be a free agent, which is much more important to the Nationals.

Mar 17, 2010 07:22 AM
rating: 1

If he's classified as a Super Two, will his salary change for years 3 and 4? In other words, is there any incentive besides possible better development in AA/AAA for the Nats to start him in the minors?

Mar 17, 2010 08:48 AM
rating: 0

I started thinking about that after I posted this. Nothing will change thru 2012 (unless they agree on a different contract) as they have already agreed upon a contract.

But coming into 2013 he will probably have 2+ years of service and it is possible that he would not have enough service time to be a Super 2. Does that mean the Nationals would be able to drop his salary down to the minimum for one year? That sure would be weird.

Mar 18, 2010 06:51 AM
rating: 0


Mar 16, 2010 22:26 PM
rating: -1

For ESPN, Tristan goes deeper into the meaning of "super two": http://sports.espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/flb/story?page=mlbdk2k1030qnationals

Mar 16, 2010 22:28 PM
rating: -1

Other than public pressure from fans, is there any reason the Nats couldn't keep Strasburg in the minors all year and call him up after they suspect the super two deadline has passed next year?

Mar 17, 2010 03:46 AM
rating: -1
Brian Kopec

Yes. They could piss off Strasburg which might have longer reaching implications.

Mar 17, 2010 05:58 AM
rating: 1
Randy Brown

I'm speculating, but I would guess that given his high profile, the MLBPA might take up his cause and file a grievance if that happened. I believe he is a MLBPA member already because he signed a major league contract.

And if the MLBPA picked up the torch for Strasburg, it may open a pandora's box for every Weiters, McCutchen, or Hanson who decided that he's had enough of the minors and wanted to complain that his parent club was gaming his service time.

Mar 17, 2010 06:12 AM
rating: -1

They wouldn't need to keep him down all year... just 'till around the All-Star break.

Mar 17, 2010 07:56 AM
rating: -1

Of course, they could give him a long term contract(though of course his agent is a fan of those). They also might be getting revenue from Strasburg they might not otherwise. At least with him every four days there is something to watch.

Mar 17, 2010 05:47 AM
rating: -1
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