11. Washington Nationals
Of all the volatile assets in baseball, none is probably more routinely problematic than a very young, very talented pitcher.
As evidence of this, I give you Stephen Strasburg.
The Nats drafted Strasburg out of college in 2009, and welcomed him to the majors a year later. Arriving as a regular in 2012, he compiled 106 victories against just 54 losses between 2012 and 2019, and in 2019 was Most Valuable Player in the World Series, a series the Nats won in seven games over Houston.
The Nats celebrated that winter by re-upping Strasburg for seven seasons at $245 million, representing both the richest raw dollar amount ever paid by Washington and also — at $35 million per season — the richest AAV.
Strasburg was 30 at the time and with 1,450 innings on his arm, a league-leading 209 of them coming in the 2019 championship drive. (There were 36 more in the post-season run, but his total doesn’t count those.)
Then what seems to be the inevitable with brilliant young pitchers occurred to Strasburg … arm trouble. In the three seasons since signing that team record contract, he’s been on the mound for just 31 innings, or five fewer than he pitched in the 2019 post-season.
The net to the Nats has been one victory, four losses and a layout of $105 million minus whatever discount was applied for the Covid-shortened 2020 season.
If you ever wonder why GMs these days refuse to hand out long-term deals to free agent pitchers like they do to position players, the answer is Stephen Strasburg.