Is Stephen Strasburg Worth $50 Million of the Nationals Money?

Timmy Edwards-FerrelCorrespondent IJuly 10, 2009

SAN DIEGO, CA- APRIL 3:  Starting Pitcher Stephen Strasburg #37 of the San Diego State Aztecs throws from the mound against the UC Davis Aggies during their game on April 3, 2009 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

This is an article I wrote a month ago about Stephen Strasburg that I never posted.

With the Washington Nationals drafting of San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the first pick Tuesday, the struggling franchise is forced into a tough situation. 

Obviously they had to draft Strasburg or the few fans the team had left would be outraged.

They have to sign him or some of those same fans will switch their allegiance to the Orioles.

So now the Nats are going to be paying an estimated $50 million to a guy who has never pitched in a professional game.  While Strasburg is clearly a phenomenal talent that you can’t pass on, $50 million is way too much for a player straight out of the draft. 

What happens if Strasburg gets injured and becomes the next Mark Prior?  What happens if he can’t throw strikes and becomes the next Steve Dalkowski?  Couldn’t that money have been better spent on two solid major league pitchers than on an unproven college pitcher?

The answer is no.  While $50 million is a ridiculous number and Strasburg may not be worth it, the Nats can’t lose Strasburg.  He has too much potential.  If the Nats develop him properly, he should become a premier pitcher that can finally lead the Nats out of the cellar.

If the Nats don’t want their money to go to waste, they have to do three things:

·    Start Strasburg out in the minors

     There has been talk of sending Strasburg straight to the majors once he is signed. 

     This is a horrible idea, as he clearly needs some seasoning.  Even Tony Gwynn, who     coached him in college, says that if Strasburg can’t locate his off-speed pitches, he will get shelled in the majors.

     Also, what happens if he does come up right away and gets rocked?  Can his psyche really stand an eight run, three inning, boo-filled performance?  Strasburg was ready to quit playing baseball his freshman year because his conditioning coach constantly insulted him, how will he react when a stadium full (well, half full) of fans is booing him?

     The Nats need to start him out at AA Harrisburg or Advanced A Potomac and let him work his way up through the system.

       Don’t bring Strasburg up until next year at the earliest

     Bringing Strasburg up in September is pointless.  The team will be out of contention and should let some of its more seasoned prospects have their shot instead of Strasburg.  He needs at least three months in the minors to prove he is ready, and since it will most likely take awhile to sign him he will not get that this season. 

     He also needs to have at least one spring training under his belt so he can further work on his control.  The Nats should keep him in the minors this year and give him a chance to earn a spot in the rotation during spring training.

    Sign or trade for some quality relievers

     If Strasburg were to pitch for the Nats today, the majority of his wins would come in complete games.  The Nats bullpen is so absolutely terrible and will blow most of his games for him. 

     Right now, only Ron Villone and Jason Bergmann are showing any skill in the bullpen.  Villone’s 39-years-old and Bergmann is envisioned as a starter by the Nats.  If the Nats want to compete, they need to have a good bullpen.  Right now, that is the team’s biggest problem. 

     The rotation is decent, the hitting is good, the bullpen is unspeakably bad.  If the Nats sign a solid closer like Jose Valverde or Kevin Gregg, add two or three good relievers such as Fernando Rodney, and resign Joe Biemel, they will have a good bullpen.

Right now, the Nats are not looking too good.  If they sign Strasburg and upgrade their bullpen from "horrible’ to ‘serviceable", they will have a bright future ahead of them.