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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Stephen Strasburg

Although focused on Gerrit Cole, the Yankees have also gone all-in on Strasburg, at least for now.

MLB: World Series-Washington Nationals at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Captain Brian Cashman of the SS Steinbrenner has gone out sailing the high seas looking for front-line starting pitching. Gerrit Cole, obviously, stands at the forefront of the hunt, and last week Tom aptly called him the white whale the Yankees have been chasing for years. But what if the prize eludes him once more? Or what if Captain Cashman thinks one captured prize isn’t enough?

Well, as either a backup option or a sidekick, Stephen Strasburg is more than your average ketos.

(I’ll give you a second to look that up on Wikipedia. Got it? Cool.)

Fresh off a stellar postseason run in which he gave up only 9 runs in 36 innings with a 47:4 K/BB ratio, Strasburg enters his opt-out year at the most opportune time. Additionally, although often overshadowed in the Nationals’ rotation by the presence of Max Scherzer, Strasburg was its anchor in 2019, leading the National League in innings pitched. His 251 strikeouts, furthermore, were sixth best in all of baseball, and his 6.3 bWAR, 5.7 fWAR, and 3.25 FIP were all top-10 in all of baseball. It’s really hard to go wrong with Strasburg on the mound.

And he hasn’t been a one-year wonder either — he’s recorded at least 6 bWAR and 5.5 fWAR in two of the previous three seasons, and has finished within the top nine of the Cy Young voting three times since 2014. He has the track record teams look for in an ace.

If there’s one red flag that teams may have about Strasburg, it would be his injury history. Most fans are familiar with the torn UCL he suffered in the summer of 2010, that caused him to miss most of the 2011 season and resulted in the “innings limit” controversy of 2012. Durability, nonetheless, has been a concern, as he has was limited to only 127, 147, and 130 innings in 2015, 2016, and 2018, and he has only reached 30 starts three times in his career.

These concerns, along with his age (he will be 32 in July, while Cole will turn 30 in September), make Strasburg a slightly riskier investment than the former Astros ace, and this will likely be mirrored in the contracts that they will sign. MLB Trade Rumors is projecting Strasburg to receive a six-year, $180M deal — two years and $76M less than their projection for Gerrit Cole. Nonetheless, Strasburg remains a game changing pitcher, and just like Cole, his presence would instantly propel the Yankees’ rotation into one of the best in baseball.

Despite the industry consensus being that Strasburg will re-up with the Nationals, the Yankees have given him the same treatment that Cole has received, complete with a visit by team brass and Andy Pettitte. Even so, the focus seems to be on Gerrit Cole. Strasburg, however, would not be a bad consolation prize — and, if the Yankees are able to move J.A. Happ’s contract, a pretty darn good #2 starter.