Should I Really Have Been Surprised About Strasburg?

Ryan Zimmerman finally has some star-studded company in Washington

Ryan Zimmerman finally has some star-studded company in Washington

Late last night, the Nationals signed Stephen Strasburg to a four year contract worth over $15 million. This despite lots of talk that he wouldn’t sign and then maybe play in the independent leagues or Japan until next year’s draft and then get taken by another team. Presumably, one that would pay what he and agent Scott Boras wanted, and also be closer to winning than the Nationals currently are. On the other hand, this year’s worst teams (who will ultimately pick at the top of the 2010 draft) don’t really include anyone whom you can classify as “free spending,” unless you really believe he would fall all the way to the Mets in the middle of the top-10. Forget the conspiracy ideas of him becoming a foreign national so that he could be signed as a free agent like Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman. This would have cost him too many years of his potential big league career to get to that point. Otherwise, you know Boras would’ve tried it.

The Nationals knew all of this. They also knew that they needed another cornerstone player besides Ryan Zimmerman and some #2/3 caliber young starting pitchers- Strasburg should be an ace. And as we saw, they offered $15 million, no strings attached. More than the Cubs gave Mark Prior (although the deals aren’t structured the same), who was actually a #2 overall pick behind Joe Mauer… oops. If he pitches up to the hype, the deal expires without buying out any arbitration-eligible years, so his salary could quickly skyrocket.

Tom Boswell sees this much as I do. The Nationals may finally have some credibility as an organization, and the cost of being wrong on Strasburg over the next few years probably pales in comparison to what it would be if they yielded his rights and saw him thrive somewhere else in two years.

Still, I figured that the Nationals wouldn’t pull the trigger on this big a financial commitment to someone who hasn’t yet played in the Majors, or that Boras and Strasburg might gamble on what could happen next year. Instead, the two parties determined that they really did need each other- if only until 2015. As Keith Law puts it, a potential win-win for all sides– assuming Strasburg delivers on the field!

Stephen Strasburg will soon be wearing red, white, and gold for his home games.

Stephen Strasburg will soon be wearing red, white, and gold for his home games.

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Baseball Predictions Sure to Fail

What theyre all playing for (besides the money).

What they're all playing for (besides the money).

Image Sources: MLB’s website (opening day logo) and Justin Hall.

Okay, the season has finally arrived, so here goes. We’ll do the National League tonight.

NL West: Los Angeles- Mannywood is the story, but they can pitch too. Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw should only get better as they mature, while Hiroki Kuroda should win more games than his 2008 total of 9 if the offense gives him more support. His ERA, WHIP, on-base against and slugging against were all pretty good last year. Actually, Arizona and San Francisco may have better pitching, especially now that Derek Lowe left Hollywood for Atlanta, but neither’s offense is nearly as good. With Manny on board for a full season, watch for Andre Ethier, James Loney, and/or Matt Kemp to hit the 20 HR/100 RBI mark or more. If so, the rest of the NL better lookout.

Will Manny Ramirez galvanize the Dodgers once again?

Will Manny Ramirez galvanize the Dodgers once again?

NL Central: Chicago Cubs- Definitely still the best team in the division and possibly in the NL. At least, that’s until October begins. Milton Bradley and a healthy Rich Harden (okay, how often has that actually been the case?) could be the difference between another early exit and something far better. Kevin Gregg as closer seems like a question mark; his numbers in Florida were okay but he did have a bunch of spectacular meltdowns too.

Could this really be the Cubs year?

Could this really be the Cubs' year?

NL East- Philadelphia- The Mets made headlines with the additions of K-Rod and J.J. Putz to solidify the bullpen. But their starting rotation is far too dependent on question marks like Oliver Perez (now making big money to boot) and Livan Hernandez. They should score runs with Reyes/Wright/Beltran/Delgado, and even Gary Sheffield could help out. But Philly has three MVP-caliber hitters, and at least this year, Raul Ibanez shouldn’t be too much of a downgrade from Pat Burrell (like the author in the linked article, I don’t trust him over the long-term though, and he does make the lineup a bit vulnerable to left-handed pitching). Their pitching is also strong, practically from top-to-bottom. Atlanta and Florida could both be in the mix with young but very talented lineups and rotations, but I just think the Phillies’ core players are all in their prime years, and they have been through too many battles over the past couple of years to give up the crown easily- both during the regular season and playoffs.

Can potential MVP candidate Chase Utley lead the Fightin Phils to another championship?

Can potential MVP candidate Chase Utley lead the Fightin' Phils to another championship?


Photo source: Delaware County (Pa.) Daily Times

Wild Card- Mets- I’m really on the fence about this, but I think the wild card will come from the NL East, and while Atlanta and Florida might have better pitching, I think the Mets can field and hit better than the other two. They could win quite a few 7-6 games (even though Citi Field should favor pitchers)- or descend into clubhouse cliques and bickering. If the new-and-improved bullpen holds leads as it should, I’ll bet on the former.

NL Champion- Phillies over Cubs- Cole Hamels once again stars in October, and this time the Phillies even get some good postseasons from Utley and Howard.

AL Predictions tomorrow.