The case for trading Stephen Strasburg
If the Nationals do pull the trigger on a Strasburg trade, they will be influenced by a few things — his injury history, his agent, and the team’s relative lack of organizational depth in the farm system. Let’s start with the health factor. Strasburg has not missed time with arm trouble since his Tommy John surgery. After the surgery, he adjusted his style of pitching to create more contact and not rely solely on the strikeout. The injuries Strasburg dealt with this year were unrelated to his arm, and should not necessarily raise questions about his durability. There may always be a lingering cloud of doubt over a Tommy John patient, but Strasburg has checked out fine in the four full seasons following his surgery.
Strasburg’s agent is Scott Boras. There will be no hometown discount for the Nationals when it comes time to re-signing their former top pick. Washington already knows this though. Max Scherzer, who was given a $210 million contract by the Nationals is also represented by Boras. Strasburg may not command $30 million per year, but Boras may demand it, especially if Strasburg replicates his second half dominance over a full season in 2016. The Nationals have not shown any concern over spending money in the past to build a winner. In an ideal world, the Nationals would pay Strasburg whatever he wants, and keep him in Washington. That could prove difficult with Scherzer’s incredibly back-loaded contract and Bryce Harper‘s impending free agency.
The final factor to consider in evaluating whether the Nationals should trade Strasburg is the lack of Major League ready position player talent in the farm system. The Nationals have two very good prospects in middle infielders Trea Turner and Wilmer Difo, but very little else above the Single-A level. Turner should replace Ian Desmond as the everyday shortstop in 2016. Difo could provide depth at second base. Beyond those two, there are very few reinforcements waiting in the wings to help bolster a lineup that is aging rapidly. Without real prospects in the farm system, the Nationals could not recover from a multitude of injuries that kept them from playing with their intended Opening Day lineup for almost the entire season.
There are several teams that could pay a king’s ransom in prospects for Strasburg. The Boston Red Sox come to mind, as Boston has a farm system loaded with elite, MLB-ready positional talent. The Red Sox also have a huge need for an ace. Strasburg could lead the Boston rotation for at least a year, and the Red Sox would be expected to have a strong chance to re-sign him at the end of the season.