Scott Boras: Stephen Strasburg, J.D. Martinez Will Prosper If They Opt Out

NLDS Nationals Dodgers Baseball
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Washington Nationals are still in the thick of the postseason, but one question will remain on the horizon when it’s all over no matter the result:

Considering the recent state of the free-agent market, will right-hander Stephen Strasburg opt out of his seven-year, $175 million contract to test that market with $100 million and four years to go?

Common sense would say no, but then again, his agent is Scott Boras, the most successful in the business.

Boras always gets his clients top dollar. And even with free agency as tough as it has been the last two years, he has succeeded beyond expectation. And Boras has been highly critical of the imbalance in said market.

Strasburg has the opt-out option after both the 2019 and 2020 seasons, as does Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez, another Boras client. If Martinez opts to leave now, he earns a $2.5 million buyout. 

In a one-on-one conversation Wednesday at Dodger Stadium before the Nationals wrapped up their National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games, Boras told Boomskie on Baseball he’s not concerned about the market as far as Strasburg and Martinez are concerned.

He seems to have no qualms about taking them both out there if he has to this off-season.

“Great players are always coveted, and those are great players,” Boras said. “It’s really up to them how they view their situation and what they want to do.”

Boras never seems to have much of a problem signing them up, either. In that tough market two years ago, he inked first baseman Eric Hosmer to an eight-year deal worth $144 million with the San Diego Padres. Shortly thereafter, Martinez signed for five years at $110 million with the Red Sox, promptly leading them to a win over the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series.

This year, it was Boras combing the league for Bryce Harper until the power-hitting outfielder inked a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I can only tell you this,” Boras said. “For me, whether it’s J.D. or Strasburg or Harper or Hosmer—I did J.D.’s contract only two years ago—when has the market not been there for good players? Every player I’ve done, I’ve gotten big contracts for these guys.”

Boras said he hasn’t talked to Strasburg about the possibilities yet. Right now, there’s the little matter of the Nationals opening the best-of-seven NL Championship Series against the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday night.

Thus far, Strasburg has only enhanced his stature with a pair of brilliantly pitched starts on the road against the Dodgers, winning Game 2 and hanging around long enough after a rocky start to keep his club in position to win Game 5.

Add his three innings of scoreless, one-hit relief as the Nats prevailed over the Milwaukee Brewers to win the NL wild-card game. He’s 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA thus far in 15 postseason innings.

This is the stuff that makes players great.

“When you don’t have number one starters it’s hard to win these short series,” Boras said. “He provides a shade for the other four starters. That umbrella. And they’re hard to find. They’re very hard to find.”

The Nationals have two: Strasburg and Max Scherzer. And those guys, both starting and pitching in relief, have been the difference so far in Washington’s unexpected run.

Strasburg is a San Diego native who became a star at San Diego State, pitching a no-hitter while striking out 17 in his final game there under the tutelage of the late great Tony Gwynn, then the head coach.

With his hometown Padres in the market for top-of-the-rotation pitching, it isn’t tough imagining Strasburg in those new throwback brown-and-gold unis pitching regularly next season at Petco Park.

The jewel of a ballpark sits by the bay only miles from the San Diego State campus and Tony Gwynn Stadium, where Strasburg made his name.

“He’s a superstar,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, certainly not underplaying Strasburg’s aura. “Those kind of players don’t come around that often.”

Ten years ago, the Nationals took Strasburg first overall in the draft. He was sensational before Tommy John surgery and shoulder issues stunted his professional growth.

This season, at 31, he had terrific numbers: 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA, 251 strikeouts in 209 innings.

“He’s healthy,” Boras said.

The perfect time to opt out.

Likewise, the right-handed-hitting Martinez, as mostly a designated hitter, replaced the retired David Ortiz as the big bat in the Boston lineup.

Even though the Red Sox plummeted out of the playoffs this season—mostly because of their pitching—Martinez was still able to put up his own big numbers. He’s hit 79 homers and driven in 235 runs in his two Boston seasons.

“He’s obviously an elite middle-of-the-lineup bat,” Boras said about a 32-year-old client who could walk away from the $62.5 million still owed him by the Red Sox over the next three years. “Few teams have those things. He also has an impact on the preparation of other players as a teammate.

“He’s dramatically increased runs created for the Red Sox since he arrived there. It’s completely different. Mookie Betts played better. Jackie Bradley Jr. played better. Xander Bogaerts played better. You remove a guy like that from the lineup, and it has an impact on the rest of the team. That’s an elite batter.”

The Red Sox are aiming at ducking under next year’s $208 million luxury-tax threshold and might no longer want to pay Martinez all that money. But they can ill afford to lose him.

Boras, for one, is confident he can generate more dollars for Strasburg and Martinez elsewhere.

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The Washington Nationals are still in the thick of the postseason, but one question will remain on the horizon when it’s all over no matter the result:

Considering the recent state of the free-agent market, will right-hander Stephen Strasburg opt out of his seven-year, $175 million contract to test that market with $100 million and four years to go?

Common sense would say no, but then again, his agent is Scott Boras, the most successful in the business.

Boras always gets his clients top dollar. And even with free agency as tough as it has been the last two years, he has succeeded beyond expectation. And Boras has been highly critical of the imbalance in said market.

Strasburg has the opt-out option after both the 2019 and 2020 seasons, as does Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez, another Boras client. If Martinez opts to leave now, he earns a $2.5 million buyout. 

In a one-on-one conversation Wednesday at Dodger Stadium before the Nationals wrapped up their National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games, Boras told Boomskie on Baseball he’s not concerned about the market as far as Strasburg and Martinez are concerned.

He seems to have no qualms about taking them both out there if he has to this off-season.

“Great players are always coveted, and those are great players,” Boras said. “It’s really up to them how they view their situation and what they want to do.”

Boras never seems to have much of a problem signing them up, either. In that tough market two years ago, he inked first baseman Eric Hosmer to an eight-year deal worth $144 million with the San Diego Padres. Shortly thereafter, Martinez signed for five years at $110 million with the Red Sox, promptly leading them to a win over the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series.

This year, it was Boras combing the league for Bryce Harper until the power-hitting outfielder inked a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I can only tell you this,” Boras said. “For me, whether it’s J.D. or Strasburg or Harper or Hosmer—I did J.D.’s contract only two years ago—when has the market not been there for good players? Every player I’ve done, I’ve gotten big contracts for these guys.”

Boras said he hasn’t talked to Strasburg about the possibilities yet. Right now, there’s the little matter of the Nationals opening the best-of-seven NL Championship Series against the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday night.

Thus far, Strasburg has only enhanced his stature with a pair of brilliantly pitched starts on the road against the Dodgers, winning Game 2 and hanging around long enough after a rocky start to keep his club in position to win Game 5.

Add his three innings of scoreless, one-hit relief as the Nats prevailed over the Milwaukee Brewers to win the NL wild-card game. He’s 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA thus far in 15 postseason innings.

This is the stuff that makes players great.

“When you don’t have number one starters it’s hard to win these short series,” Boras said. “He provides a shade for the other four starters. That umbrella. And they’re hard to find. They’re very hard to find.”

The Nationals have two: Strasburg and Max Scherzer. And those guys, both starting and pitching in relief, have been the difference so far in Washington’s unexpected run.

Strasburg is a San Diego native who became a star at San Diego State, pitching a no-hitter while striking out 17 in his final game there under the tutelage of the late great Tony Gwynn, then the head coach.

With his hometown Padres in the market for top-of-the-rotation pitching, it isn’t tough imagining Strasburg in those new throwback brown-and-gold unis pitching regularly next season at Petco Park.

The jewel of a ballpark sits by the bay only miles from the San Diego State campus and Tony Gwynn Stadium, where Strasburg made his name.

“He’s a superstar,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, certainly not underplaying Strasburg’s aura. “Those kind of players don’t come around that often.”

Ten years ago, the Nationals took Strasburg first overall in the draft. He was sensational before Tommy John surgery and shoulder issues stunted his professional growth.

This season, at 31, he had terrific numbers: 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA, 251 strikeouts in 209 innings.

“He’s healthy,” Boras said.

The perfect time to opt out.

Likewise, the right-handed-hitting Martinez, as mostly a designated hitter, replaced the retired David Ortiz as the big bat in the Boston lineup.

Even though the Red Sox plummeted out of the playoffs this season—mostly because of their pitching—Martinez was still able to put up his own big numbers. He’s hit 79 homers and driven in 235 runs in his two Boston seasons.

“He’s obviously an elite middle-of-the-lineup bat,” Boras said about a 32-year-old client who could walk away from the $62.5 million still owed him by the Red Sox over the next three years. “Few teams have those things. He also has an impact on the preparation of other players as a teammate.

“He’s dramatically increased runs created for the Red Sox since he arrived there. It’s completely different. Mookie Betts played better. Jackie Bradley Jr. played better. Xander Bogaerts played better. You remove a guy like that from the lineup, and it has an impact on the rest of the team. That’s an elite batter.”

The Red Sox are aiming at ducking under next year’s $208 million luxury-tax threshold and might no longer want to pay Martinez all that money. But they can ill afford to lose him.

Boras, for one, is confident he can generate more dollars for Strasburg and Martinez elsewhere.

I have been a baseball writer since 1976, a National Baseball Hall of Fame voter since 1992, and a current contributing columnist for Forbes. My national reports and col...