Stephen Strasburg was reported to be retiring two weeks ago after 14 years with the Washington Nationals.
Now, it turns out his status was actually something more like “mostly retired.”
The Nationals have called off a news conference planned for Saturday because they have not finalized key details on a settlement for Strasburg’s retirement, according to Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post. Such plans were never officially announced.
Strasburg, his representatives and the Nationals reportedly first discussed plans for his retirement this summer, targeting Saturday as the day to discuss the decision with the media. Strasburg’s plans reportedly haven’t wavered, but it became clear Thursday that the two sides might not be able to come to an agreement in time.
What do the Nationals and Stephen Strasburg have to discuss about retirement?
When an MLB player decides to retire while still under contract with a team, he gives up the rest of the money owed to him on that contract unless he and the team agree on a settlement, usually for a little less than what was owed to the player.
In the case of Strasburg, it would be advantageous to the Nationals for him to retire and take a settlement, as it was becoming pretty clear that Strasburg would never pitch in MLB again.
Strasburg is currently on the fourth year of the seven-year, $245 million contract he signed after winning the World Series with the Nationals in 2019. That contract now appears to be one of the worst in MLB history, as Strasburg has made exactly eight starts with a 6.89 ERA since putting pen to paper. The right-hander missed most of 2020 due to a nerve issue in his pitching hand, then was diagnosed in 2021 with thoracic outlet syndrome, quite possibly the most dreaded injury in pitching.
The end appeared to come last month after a number of setbacks in his rehab. By all accounts, Strasburg did what he could to make it back, but his body just wouldn’t cooperate. However, as long as he continued to try, the Nationals owed him the remaining three-and-a-half years of his deal, with a $35 million annual salary.
Not helping the Nationals is that Strasburg’s contract was reportedly not insured. Teams usually take out insurance policies to protect themselves from the possibility of a mega-contract getting shredded by injuries, but the Nationals allegedly decided to go without protection given the extremely high premiums Strasburg’s injury history would have required.
A settlement would theoretically free Strasburg from any more painful rehab and save the Nationals a not small chunk of change, but there were no firm reports on what Strasburg’s settlement looked like at the time his retirement was initially reported. Now we know why.
This seems to be a situation in which Strasburg holds most of the leverage, even if he can’t pitch, so we’ll see how this ends up working out. The famously private Strasburg means a lot to the Nationals, from his time as the vanguard of his team’s future to his World Series MVP award, so neither side is going to want this matter aired publicly.