It was reported in late August, that Stephen Strasburg, who has not been able to pitch for most of the last three seasons due to several injuries, was planning to retire just three seasons after signing a massive seven-year, $245 million contract in the offseason after being named World Series MVP in 2019. There were also reports last week that the Washington Nationals had then canceled a press conference scheduled for over the past weekend for the former No. 1 overall pick to announce his retirement and the club was going to honor him and retire his jersey number.
So, simply, what is going on with Strasburg?
"This may be the most, misinformed, miscommunicated, non-issue of the season," GM Mike Rizzo said during his weekly appearance Wednesday with 106.7 The Fan's The Sports Junkies, which is presented exclusively by our partners at MainStreet Bank — Cheer Local. Bank Local. Put Our Team in Your Office.
"Stephen Strasburg, a pillar of the Nationals, a legend in Nationals lore," he continued. "Stephen is going to be treated with the respect and admiration that he deserves. There's nobody that loves and cares about Stras and has protected Stras more than me. He is going to be respected and protected and admired by all.
"There is a protocol that has to be followed with players that are on the 40-man roster, that are under contract, that are considering retirement – and that's a player's decision not the team's decision – there is a protocol that is written in the CBA that must be followed before any retirement can take place, can be announced, and can obviously have a press conference or so.
"So, unfortunately, there was some misinformation out there and some information that got out that was erroneous 'that Mark Lerner expects Stras to pitch in spring training' that's a new one, I never heard that one til just now. He'd like to see him in spring training, as would I. Retired or not, [whether] he can pitch or he can't, we'd love to see him in there because he'd be a great inspiration for the young players that we have. He could teach grip on a superb changeup that he always had, can really add to some learning curve to these young pitchers.
"I'd love to see him around, but he's gonna be treated with respect and dignity like we always have and our intention is that he is going to be a big part of the history going forward and be one of the Nationals legends in the very near future."
A report last week in The Athletic indicated that the canceled press conference was related to the Nationals, having agreed to pay Strasburg the full amount remaining on his guaranteed contract, "want to change the original contract terms and work out a settlement."
Rizzo told the Junkies on Wednesday that "there's no disagreement" between the two sides.
Last Friday, Nationals owner Mark Lerner released a statement that said the organization supports Strasburg “in any decision he makes and will ensure that he receives what is due to him.”
“It is regrettable that private discussions have been made public through anonymous sources attempting to negotiate through the media,” Lerner's statement read. “While we have been following the process required by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, behind-the-scenes preparations for a press conference had begun internally. However, no such event was ever confirmed by the team or promoted publicly. It is unfortunate that external leaks in the press have mischaracterized these events.
"It is our hope that ongoing conversations remain private out of respect for the individuals involved. Until then, we look forward to seeing Stephen when we report to spring training."
Rizzo told The Junkies that while they would love to see Strasburg at spring training, "I don't believe he's going to be pitching at spring training or prepared to pitch at spring training."
"We want to see him there, we'd love to see him just to interact with the players and be around and be a part of the Nationals family, just like [Ryan Zimmerman] is," Rizzo said on 106.7 The Fan. "... these guys come to spring training and put a uniform on a teach guys how to grip a baseball and teach guys the mental aspect of pitching in Game 6 of elimination World Series. That's all good information to have and that's all stuff that we would really embrace to have forwarded to our young pitchers."