Why Signing Stephen Strasburg Is Well Worth The Money

As predicted, Stephen Strasburg under the "advice" of his "adviser" Scott Boras racked up a $15.1 million dollar bonus from the Washington Nationals minutes before Monday's midnight deadline. The record bonus is just shy of $5 million more than Mark Prior received as the second pick in the 2001 draft. To me it's a win for both parties. Strasburg got this record breaking deal and the Nationals hopefully get a young front line starter whom they can build around.

A lot of people are amazed how a team can gamble $15 million dollars on a guy who hasn't thrown a professional pitch. May I remind them that Jason Schmidt is making $15.2 million this season. The Tigers dumped Gary Sheffield and his $14 million dollars. And more recently the Rangers, who are having money problems, cut Vincente Padilla who is making $12 million.

$15 million dollars seems like a lot to me or you, but in baseball it really isn't that much money. If teams are willing to cut a player and pay his salary, I'm sure they'd be willing to pay that money for the what some are billing the best thing since Al Gore invented the internet. The $15 million looks even less when you consider that it's over a four year period ($3.92 per season).

The average salary of an MLB player is $3.26 million dollars. If you add in the fact that Strasburg is considered a once in a generation talent, it could be a bargain. Sure there is a risk that Strasburg becomes Matt White and never throws a major league pitch, but every time a team drafts, signs or trades for a player they are taking a risk.

Sabermetrically speaking, the Nationals should easily get their moneys worth if Strasburg does indeed pan out as expected. Even if he doesn't and just becomes a good not great starter, they should still get sufficient enough production to offset the dollars. Depending on where you go/read the going "rate" on a win varies.

 More on Strasburg and the record contract after the jump.

The most common assessment is that a win is worth $4.5 million dollars. In order to make this a successful deal in terms of worth, Strasburg would need to earn a combined 3.4 WAR (rounding up) over the four years to give the Nats $15.3 million dollars worth of production; that's less than a win per season. For reference, 81 of the 86 qualified starters in 2008 registered at least a 1 WAR. In 2009, 73 of 82 have reached 1 WAR already. If Strasburg wanted to knock his 3.4 WAR out in one season, 38 pitchers reached 3.4 WAR in 2008 and 18 so far in 2009.

Given the fact that he has four years to get to the 3.4 plateau, he should easily pass that. There is talk from team Boras that Strasburg will not pitch in the bigs in 2009 and might spend 2010 in the minors. Of course this is all up to the Nationals, and even of they choose to do so and bring Strasburg up in 2011, he would need to average 1.7 WAR over the final two years of the deal to live up to the dollar amount. In case you're wondering, here are the pitchers who have earned a 1.7 WAR in 2009.

Name

WAR

Tim Lincecum

7.4

Zack Greinke

6.9

Justin Verlander

5.7

Roy Halladay

5.6

Cliff Lee

5.3

Javier Vazquez

5

Josh Beckett

4.9

Jon Lester

4.9

Dan Haren

4.8

Felix Hernandez

4.5

Ubaldo Jimenez

4.4

Josh Johnson

4.3

Chris Carpenter

4.1

Joel Pineiro

4.1

Gavin Floyd

4.1

CC Sabathia

4.1

Adam Wainwright

3.9

Clayton Kershaw

3.3

Chad Billingsley

3.1

Jason Marquis

3

James Shields

3

Dallas Braden

2.9

Johan Santana

2.9

Max Scherzer

2.9

John Danks

2.9

Jair Jurrjens

2.8

Mark Buehrle

2.8

Jorge de la Rosa

2.8

Matt Cain

2.8

Edwin Jackson

2.8

Jered Weaver

2.7

Derek Lowe

2.7

Andy Pettitte

2.6

Jarrod Washburn

2.6

Yovani Gallardo

2.6

John Lackey

2.5

Ricky Nolasco

2.5

A.J. Burnett

2.4

Brian Bannister

2.4

Ted Lilly

2.4

Randy Wolf

2.4

Carlos Zambrano

2.4

Roy Oswalt

2.3

Brett Anderson

2.3

Scott Baker

2.3

Paul Maholm

2.3

Carl Pavano

2.3

Brad Bergesen

2.3

Wandy Rodriguez

2.3

Kevin Millwood

2.2

Aaron Harang

2.2

Matt Garza

2.2

Scott Feldman

2.1

Mike Pelfrey

2

Cole Hamels

2

Zach Duke

2

Jeff Niemann

2

Nick Blackburn

1.9

Brad Penny

1.9

Ricky Romero

1.9

Aaron Cook

1.8

Jon Garland

1.8

Barry Zito

1.7

Doug Davis

1.7

Ryan Dempster

1.7

Joe Blanton

1.7

It may seem like a slam dunk that Strasburg can equal Joe Blantonoutput, but it's not a given. After all, the game isn't played on spreadsheets with WAR calculators, you know. A lot can happen to a young pitcher over the course of four years. Is Strasburg the next big thing? Maybe, but in order to make the Nationals investment "worth" it over the next four years he doesn't have to be. Hopefully for their sake he is, but either way the deal shapes up to work for both parties. More importantly, Strasburg can stop worrying about money and start earning it.

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