Seven quick thoughts on Stephen Strasburg’s extension

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg delivers to a Kansas City Royals batter during the first inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, May 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
WASHINGTON — Right in the middle of his start Monday night, Stephen Strasburg became the center of attention in the baseball world for a different reason. News of a seven-year, $175-million extension between the free agent to be and the Nationals leaked out, a deal the club confirmed Tuesday. There are many reasons why the deal is surprising, and its implications could reach far beyond those for just Strasburg himself. Here are seven quick thoughts on what the deal means for Washington baseball now and in the future. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) (AP/Orlin Wagner)
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price delivers to the Baltimore Orioles during a baseball game at Fenway Park, Monday, April 11, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
1. It’s a surprise, given the thin free agent pitching market Unlike this year, when David Price headlined the group of available free agent arms, there are precious few top flight pitchers in the 2017 free agent class. It was basically poised to be Strasburg and everyone else. Based on the basic laws of supply and demand, that seemed to place the 27-year-old ace in a premium position to snag an enormous, possibly record-setting contract. Instead, he took a gross amount ($175 million) well less than fellow teammate Max Scherzer ($210 million) for the same length of a deal. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) (AP/Elise Amendola)
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) pauses in the dugout during an exhibition baseball game against the Minnesota Twins at Nationals Park, Saturday, April 2, 2016, in Washington. The game ended in an 8-8 tie. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
2. That’s a lot of money for a post-Tommy John pitcher A lot of the instant reaction to the deal on Twitter last night seemed to be that $175 million wasn’t all that much money. And while it may have been well less than Strasburg could have made on the open market, an extended, $25 million per year average annual value (AAV) for a post-Tommy John surgery pitcher is an enormous risk. As Jeff Passan highlighted in his new book about the procedure, the strongest predictor of a future arm injury is not workload or high pitch counts. It’s the existence of a past arm injury. It’s why Jordan Zimmermann’s five-year, $110-million deal with the Tigers this past offseason really wasn’t an underpay. It was a hedge against the ticking time bomb that a reconstructed elbow might be. But speaking of the devil… (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (AP/Alex Brandon)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (27) collects himself on the mound during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Thursday, April 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
3. It’s a slap in the face to Jordan Zimmermann Zimmermann was in a nearly identical situation to Strasburg. Two years older, he underwent the same post-Tommy John recovery process and proved, if anything, to be more durable than Strasburg on the other side of the procedure. But also he made it fairly clear, fairly early, that he intended to test the free agent market, and signed quickly with Detroit. That the team would offer a significantly larger, more lucrative offer to Strasburg while Zimmermann is in the opposite clubhouse certainly raises the eyebrows in terms of timing. Perhaps it’s entirely coincidence. Then again, this was the team that shipped out Jerry Blevins over a $200,000 victory in an arbitration dispute. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) (AP/Gene J. Puskar)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 01:  Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo (L) gives a thumbs up to the crowd with Nationals owner Ted Lerner while accepting an award for MLB Executive of the Year before the Opening Day game against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on Monday, April 1, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
4. It’s a sign that Mike Rizzo and the Lerners have accepted the opt-out The Nationals didn’t land any of their prized offseason targets this year, missing out on Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and Yoenis Cespedes. At least part of the reason they failed to do so was their unwillingness to offer an opt-out clause in a contract, something that became the new normal over the past calendar year in Major League Baseball. The Strasburg extension is reported to include opt-outs after both the third and fourth year of the deal, the first such options the Nats have given a player. It’s a significant sign that they have accepted the new reality of the market in front of them. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Win McNamee)
Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman, left, and Jayson Werth celebrate following the Nationals' 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
5. Seven seems to be the magic number Strasburg’s deal is the fourth nine-figure contract the club has handed out since December of 2010, when they signed Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126-million pact. They extended Ryan Zimmerman on a six-year deal with a club option for a seventh year heading into the 2012 season, then inked Scherzer to a seven-year contract before the 2015 season. Many teams are wary of going beyond a certain year limit for major money deals. The Nationals have shown a willingness (with some deferred money) to offer seven years to players they want to lock up. There will always be added risk in those extra years, but plenty of teams have thrown a lot of money at pitchers a lot less proven than Strasburg. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) (AP/Jeff Roberson)
Sports agent Scott Boras attends the baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
6. It’s the first Boras extension since Jered Weaver Perhaps the most surprising implication of the deal is that super agent Scott Boras — who is notoriously anti-extension, choosing whenever he can to test the free agent market — is open to extensions for his players after all. Strasburg’s extension is the first signed by a Boras-represented pitcher since Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jered Weaver inked a five-year deal in 2012. Certainly the Nats have been as friendly with Boras as any team in baseball over the past seven years, as most of their highest-paid players are Boras clients (Scherzer, Werth and now Strasburg). Did that relationship help pave the way for the change in policy? And, equally as important … (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok) (AP/Danny Moloshok)
Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper reacts as he visits with a teammate before a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
7. Does this mean an extension for Bryce Harper is next? Harper is also, famously, represented by Boras, and chatter of him becoming the game’s first $400 million (or $500 million) player has already begun, even with the 23-year-old still three seasons away from hitting free agency. With the potential for a landmark deal, it’s always been assumed that Harper would test the free agent waters as a 26-year-old smack in the middle of his prime. That reality becomes less certain after Strasburg’s deal. The two will always be spoken about in the same breath, as generational talents selected with consecutive top overall picks in 2009 and 2010. But even while Harper was making his own headlines Monday, the question was unavoidable as to whether he might be the next to ink a long-term deal in the District. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley) (AP/Colin E. Braley)
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Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg delivers to a Kansas City Royals batter during the first inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, May 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price delivers to the Baltimore Orioles during a baseball game at Fenway Park, Monday, April 11, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) pauses in the dugout during an exhibition baseball game against the Minnesota Twins at Nationals Park, Saturday, April 2, 2016, in Washington. The game ended in an 8-8 tie. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (27) collects himself on the mound during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Thursday, April 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 01:  Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo (L) gives a thumbs up to the crowd with Nationals owner Ted Lerner while accepting an award for MLB Executive of the Year before the Opening Day game against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on Monday, April 1, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman, left, and Jayson Werth celebrate following the Nationals' 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Sports agent Scott Boras attends the baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper reacts as he visits with a teammate before a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

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