WASHINGTON >> A day after Stephen Strasburg deflected questions about a new contract, the Washington Nationals announced that they had, indeed, agreed to a seven-year extension with the right-hander.
The team said it would hold a news conference at Nationals Park on Tuesday with Strasburg. He is surprisingly skipping his first chance at free agency to stay with the club that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009 and — in a move debated around baseball — shut him down before the playoffs in 2012 to protect the pitcher's surgically repaired right elbow.
According to a person familiar with the negotiations, the agreement calls for total payments of $175 million starting in 2017, but it includes $70 million in deferred money. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Nationals did not reveal the financial terms of the deal.
If he stays for the full seven seasons, Strasburg will get $15 million each year from 2017-23, followed by seven $10 million payments each year from 2024-30. The use of a deferral structure is similar to the $210 million, seven-year deal that the Nationals gave another Scott Boras client, right-hander Max Scherzer, before last season.
Strasburg would earn a $1 million performance bonus each year for pitching 180 innings. The new contract has an escape clause: Strasburg can opt out and become a free agent after the 2019 or 2020 seasons.
If he opts out after three seasons, $30 million deferred from his 2019 salary would be paid out in three $10 million installments from 2020-22. If he opts out after four, $40 million deferred from 2019 and 2020 would be paid out in four $10 million installments from 2021-24.
Word of the agreement emerged Monday while Strasburg was pitching in Washington's 5-4 victory over the visiting Detroit Tigers. After the game, Strasburg was asked about his contract and replied: "I don't really have a comment about that right now."
Asked about his comfort level in Washington, Strasburg answered: "Growing up in Southern California, San Diego, all my life and stuff, the East Coast is a little bit of a change. But the city of D.C. has been great to me and my family. It's really grown on us. We're very comfortable here."
By agreeing to a deal now, Strasburg leaves a weaker free-agent class in his wake, because he would have been the No. 1 pitcher available.
The 27-year-old Strasburg has a 59-37 career record and a 3.07 ERA across 139 appearances, all starts. He led the National League in strikeouts with 242 in 2014.
"From the moment he was drafted, Stephen has been far more than just a pitcher for our organization, and his talent is transcendent," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "The numbers speak for themselves."