Stephen Strasburg's $175 million contract is mostly smoke and mirrors and is a brilliant ploy by super agent Scott Boras

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Stephen Strasburg Signs Seven-year, $175 Million Contract Extension

The Washington Nationals stunned the baseball world last week when it was announced thatStephen Strasburg had signed a 7-year, $175 million contract.

It turns out the contract is not what it seems. While some questioned the timing for Strasburg, it is actually a huge win for the pitcher and a brilliant ploy by his agent, Scott Boras.

The deal was surprising because players represented by Boras rarely sign extensions while still under contract as he encourages them to wait until free agency to maximize their leverage and value. That is something that certainly would have happened here as Strasburg was viewed as the big prize in what is seen as a thin crop of free agents that will hit the market this winter.

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In order to get Strasburg to sign the extension, the Nationals were forced to include an "unheard of" feature to the deal: two chances for Strasburg to opt out of the deal, either after the third or fourth years. And listening to Boras describe the deal, it sounds like Strasburg will never see the final three years of the contract.

Boras was a guest on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" podcast where he was asked by Buster Olney about the importance of the double-opt-out and the Nationals' reaction when he proposed the structure.

"It's rather unheard of, so they certainly had to discuss it," Boras said. "I made them know that one of the points of light here was that we felt economically we could certainly do as well or better in the free-agent market and I think they were in agreement ... In the back of my mind, the rolling opt-out was very, very important."


Ranking MLB stadiums
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Stephen Strasburg's $175 million contract is mostly smoke and mirrors and is a brilliant ploy by super agent Scott Boras

30. Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay Rays

The playing surface is a mixture of grass and artificial turf, and there are fire inspection rings in play over head. Must be a joy to play in.

(AP Photo)

29. Rogers Centre, Toronto Blue Jays

The only things worse than this warehouse-looking place are the metric measurements on the outfield walls.


28. Coliseum, Oakland A's

Any place sewage seeps back through the clubhouse drains probably isn’t a suitable location for pro sports.

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

27. Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas Rangers

Remember when this place was state of the art? Neither do we.

(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)

26. U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox

What’s more bland than the Chicago White Sox? Their uniforms. What’s worse than that? The stadium.

(AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

25. Turner Field, Atlanta Braves

This place won’t live to see its 20th birthday. Good luck to the Braves’ next home, which will probably still always be empty, too.

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

24. Marlins Park, Miami Marlins

Makes perfect sense for an orange and teal team to play in a stadium with neon green everything. Also, has anyone ever figured out what exactly this is? 

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

23. Angel Stadium, Los Angeles Angels

Nothin’ like some fake rocks in center field to really set the mood for a baseball game.


22. Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians

The fact that it’s no longer Jacobs Field bumps this down at least five spots.


21. Busch Stadium, St. Louis Cardinals

Can this place just stay out of the playoffs just once?


20. Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati Reds

How cheap is that wind tunnel?

 (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

19. Chase Field, Arizona Diamondbacks

Center field is the deepest part of the stadium, guys. The wall doesn’t need to be that high.

Clintus McGintus/Flickr

18. Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees

Great place to see the best baseball players of the 20th century.

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

17. Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers

Bernie sliding down that slide for every home run is ridiculous and awesome at the same time. Every time.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

16. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies

Once you get over the fact that some little league parks have deeper fences? Cool place to catch a game.

 (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

15. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles Dodgers

They should probably just name it Vin Scully Stadium at this point. Might help them out in these rankings.

 (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

14. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City Royals

The scoreboard being shaped like a long crown is a bit odd, but you can’t blame them for playing up the whole royalty thing.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

13. Coors Field, Colorado Rockies

If it’s not a blizzard in Denver, Coors Field is still pretty impressive. But let’s lose those humidors and get these balls flying like its 2001. 

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

12. Comerica Park, Detroit Tigers

Credit to the grounds crew for making sure the infield didn’t collapse through the ground while Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera manned the corners. That approached a good 600 pounds of man.

 (AP Photo/Matt Halip)

11. Minute Maid Park, Houston Astros

Get back to us next year, once that ridiculous hill and flag pole are scrapped.

(AP Photo/Bob Levey)

10. Target Field, Minnesota Twins

You probably won’t want to sit outside in Minnesota until about mid-June, but after that, Target Field is tough to beat.

 (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

9. Citi Field, New York Mets

Ownership may be fresh out of cash, but at least its stadium has an awesome selection of $12 beers. 

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

8. Nationals Park, Washington Nationals

It’s been seven years, and the team just can’t sell these naming rights. Strangely, this makes the park even cooler.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

7. Safeco Field, Seattle Mariners

For a stadium that opened up in 1999, the Mariners’ digs have held up pretty well -- even when their roster hasn’t.

 (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

6.. Petco Park, San Diego Padres

Fun fact: An old candy factory building was physically moved to make room for the stadium. 

(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

5. Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox

Relax, Fenway is definitely an amazing place to watch a game. But sitting directly behind a pole and/or facing the left-center field wall just isn’t always appealing.


4. Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs

We’re glad the Cubs decided to keep their old home intact, but there’s no two ways about it: Until renovation is complete, Wrigley is a dump.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

3. PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates

After two decades under .500, the Pirates are finally playing some winning ball again. Good thing, because their park deserves as many games as possible.

 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

2. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles

Still as beautiful as the day it opened in 1992, Camden Yards is headed toward becoming the next legendary American ballpark. 

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

1. AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants

Already 15 years and three names later, AT&T Park remains the best place to watch a Major League Baseball game. Between the amazing food, packed-out stands and the glistening bay in right field, San Francisco is lucky to call it home. 

(AP Photo)


The deal was also stunning because 7-year contracts for pitchers rarely work, and the Nationals were giving one to a pitcher who has already had Tommy John surgery and has been on the disabled list seven times in seven years. Amazingly, Boras actually used this to his advantage.

With so much missed time, Strasburg has not yet lived up to the potential he showed coming out of college as the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft. By getting opt-outs in the deal, Boras is basically delaying Strasburg's free agency to give him a chance to reach that potential before signing a real monster contract.

Meanwhile, Boras is already looking forward to Strasburg opting out, something that sounds like a foregone conclusion.

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"The goal that I foresaw was that Stephen Strasburg will be a true free agent once he has the innings and the performance record to illustrate to owners three or four years from now that he is the elite pitcher," Boras told Olney. "I think for me, how I define a negotiation is that there is a value for Stephen Strasburg in potential leverage and there is a much higher value for Stephen Strasburg at star leverage. And these next three or four seasons of Stephen's performance will place him in that star category."

In other words, Strasburg got the best of both worlds. He got long-term security in case his career does go south. But he also has the opportunity to not only become a free agent and sign a bigger deal, but he can choose when to do it, something players rarely get to do.

In the end, much is being made out of this so-called "$175 million contract," when in reality it is either a 3-year, $75 million or a 4-year, $100 million contract. More importantly, Strasburg will be a free agent when he is either 31 or 32 years old and still in the prime of his career.

Meanwhile, this contract only creates three options for the Nationals: They will either lose a good pitcher in 4-5 years, they will have to pony up an even bigger contract to keep him, or they are going to be on the hook for the last 3-4 years of the deal at $75-100 million for a pitcher who is not worth it.

None of those options sound ideal, and that's why people call Scott Boras a super agent.

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