That deal surpasses the previous high for a pitcher’s contract, set by David Price when he signed a seven-year, $217 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. Strasburg also has the highest annual average value, eclipsing Zack Greinke‘s $31.5 million. Both records might not last long, with former Houston Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole drawing interest.
Strasburg, who opted out of the final four years of his contract with the Nationals, entered free agency fresh off a regular season in which he posted a career-high 18 wins and led the National League with 209 innings pitched — no small measure for a pitcher who has battled injuries throughout his career.
He continued rolling in the playoffs: He became the first pitcher in major league history to win five games in a single postseason without a loss; his 47 strikeouts were tied for the second most in a single postseason (Curt Schilling had 56 in 2001); and he posted a 1.98 ERA in six appearances overall.
The 31-year-old right-hander won two games against the Houston Astros in the World Series, including a pivotal Game 6 on the road in which he became the first starter to go at least eight innings in a World Series game since Matt Harvey did so in Game 5 in 2015. The following night, Washington won Game 7 and Strasburg became the first No. 1 overall draft pick to be named World Series MVP.
The key to Strasburg’s success this past season was his increased use of his two best off-speed pitches — his power curveball, which was the most valuable curveball in the majors in 2019 per FanGraphs, and his plus changeup with good arm speed and late fading action. So while he still throws hard, averaging 93.9 mph on his four-seamer according to Statcast, he has been much better by throwing other pitches.
The big knock on Strasburg is his lack of durability. In eight full seasons, he has qualified for the ERA title just three times, falling three innings short in a fourth. He reached the threshold just twice in the past five seasons, missing about 10 starts in 2018 with injuries to his shoulder and neck.
In a career interrupted by Tommy John surgery shortly after his spectacular major league debut in 2010, Strasburg is 112-58 with a 3.17 ERA and 1,695 strikeouts in parts of 10 seasons.
ESPN’s Keith Law contributed to this report.