SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Padres could make another huge splash in free agency before the 2020 season if they sign a hometown hero who just thrived in baseball's biggest spotlight.
San Diego native and former Aztec Stephen Strasburg, the starting pitcher who just won World Series MVP for the Washington Nationals, has opted out of the remainder of his contract and will be available to sign with a bidder of his choice.
In 2019, the Padres landed one of free agency's biggest prizes with the signing of superstar infielder Manny Machado.
Could they do it again in 2020, bringing Strasburg to the mound for a local team for the first time since his days at San Diego State and West Hills High School?
They aren't necessarily frontrunners, but baseball writers are keeping an eye on the team in America's Finest City.
"The belief in baseball is the Nationals are the favorites to keep Strasburg — just at a higher price than previously committed," the San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee wrote this week. "However, San Diego County is where Stephen and Rachel Strasburg’s parents both live."
Acee reported that two people familiar with the Padres' offseason plans seemed to think the team had more interest in Strasburg than fellow All-Star free agent pitcher Gerrit Cole.
"It is early in the process, and the Padres have shown (with the $444 million given [Eric] Hosmer and Machado) that their plans can change," Acee said. "They know the chance for success in 2020, a season they have identified as the opening of their window of contention, ... would be bolstered by another solid starting pitcher."
Strasburg had a 3.32 ERA over 33 regular season games in 2019, good for 6.5 WAR and an 18-6 record with the World Series-winning Nationals.
He was selected by Washington first overall in the 2009 draft after his time playing for SDSU. He finished in the top 3 of Cy Young Award voting in 2017 and has made three All-Star games.
Strasburg and Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers star who played basketball for the Aztecs, just made SDSU the first college program to have two former players named postseason MVP in the same season for one of the four major U.S. sports.