WASHINGTON — A day after Stephen Strasburg deflected questions about a new contract, the Washington Nationals announced that they had, indeed, agreed to a seven-year extension with the right-hander.
The team said it would hold a news conference at Nationals Park on Tuesday with Strasburg. He is surprisingly skipping his first chance at free agency to stay with the club that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009 and — in a move debated around baseball — shut him down before the playoffs in 2012 to protect the pitcher’s surgically repaired right elbow.
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According to a person familiar with the negotiations, the agreement will pay Strasburg $175 million starting in 2017. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday night because the Nationals had not yet announced the deal.
The new deal’s total dollars match the 2013-19 contract of Seattle’s Felix Hernandez for the sixth-highest among big league pitchers.
Strasburg would earn a $1 million performance bonus each year for pitching 180 innings. The new contract has an escape clause: Strasburg can opt out and become a free agent after the 2019 or 2020 seasons.
Word of the agreement emerged Monday while Strasburg was pitching in Washington’s 5-4 victory over the visiting Detroit Tigers. After the game, Strasburg was asked about his contract and replied: “I don’t really have a comment about that right now.”
Asked about his comfort level in Washington, Strasburg answered: “Growing up in Southern California, San Diego, all my life and stuff, the East Coast is a little bit of a change. But the city of D.C. has been great to me and my family. It’s really grown on us. We’re very comfortable here.”
By agreeing to a deal now, Strasburg leaves a weaker free-agent class in his wake, because he would have been the No. 1 pitcher available.
The 27-year-old Strasburg has a 59-37 career record and a 3.07 ERA across 139 appearances, all starts. He led the National League in strikeouts with 242 in 2014.
“From the moment he was drafted, Stephen has been far more than just a pitcher for our organization, and his talent is transcendent,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “The numbers speak for themselves.”