WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg thought about his mentor, Tony Gwynn, when he decided to sign a seven-year, $175 million extension with the Nationals on Tuesday afternoon.
Gwynn, who was Strasburg's college coach at San Diego State, played his entire Major League career with the Padres. Strasburg wanted to follow in his mentor's footsteps and play for one team -- the Nats.
"[Gwynn] was my favorite player [and my] college coach," Strasburg said Tuesday at a news conference to announce his signing. "[Him staying with the Padres] says a lot about the person that he was. I'm just so thankful to have an opportunity like he did.
Strasburg, 27, could have been a free agent after this season, and he would have been one of the most compelling players on the market. Instead, he opted to remain with the team that selected him No. 1 overall in the 2009 Draft.
"Talking to my wife and my mom and dad, I think the biggest thing is we tried to see what our life goals are outside of baseball," Strasburg said. "I think this city and this situation gives us a tremendous opportunity and platform to accomplish those things. We're just very excited to be here for some time."
According to the Washington Post, Strasburg will get $15 million per season from 2017-23, in addition to $70 million deferred with no interest from '24-30 ($10 million per year). Strasburg could opt out of the contract in three years, which would allow him to become a free agent before his age-31 season. It's the first time the Nationals have given a player an opt-out clause in a contract.
The negotiations started during Spring Training, when managing principal owner Ted Lerner called Strasburg's agent, Scott Boras, and said he wanted to do a long-term deal with Strasburg. Both sides had a short window to get a deal done. If a deal hadn't been done within the first month or so of the season, Strasburg likely would have tested the free-agent market.
"We gave it a shorter window … to kind of make a decision on both sides," Boras said. "Stephen didn't want any part of this. Once we got into the significant areas, I had to involve him. I didn't want him to have too many starts thinking about [the negotiations] other than his performance."
Strasburg and the Nats had a deal done by last week, but both sides kept it a secret until Monday evening, when it took the baseball world by storm. Strasburg took a physical when the team was in Kansas City last week and passed. General manager Mike Rizzo said he is not concerned about the possibility of Strasburg having future elbow problems after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010.
"We are comfortable where he is at," Rizzo said. "We did a full physical. Everything looked good. Obviously, if we had concerns, we wouldn't have entered into the negotiations."
Strasburg has made more than 30 starts once in his career. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010, missing almost all of the '11 season, and he was limited to 28 starts in '12 as he came back from the operation. Strasburg spent time on the disabled list due to injuries in '13 and '15, making 30 and 23 starts, respectively. In his one uninterrupted season, he started 34 games in '14, posting a 3.14 ERA with a league-leading 242 strikeouts.
Strasburg is off to an outstanding start this year, going 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA after allowing four runs on Monday. He has spent his entire seven-year Major League career with the Nationals, going 59-37 with a 3.07 ERA through 139 career starts.
"I just really trusted my gut and my heart, prayed about it, and the timing felt right," Strasburg said. "The grass isn't always greener on the other side, so there isn't much else I'd be needing than what's been given to me by this organization."
Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.