The first big free-agent signing of the offseason is official: Patrick Corbin has just signed a 6-year deal with the Washington Nationals. The lefty will make $140 million, the second-highest in Nationals history behind new teammate Max Scherzer, and the most lucrative contract awarded to a free agent pitcher in MLB since Johnny Cueto’s $130 million in 2015.
The now-former Diamondbacks pitcher had an impressive 2018, going 11-7 and striking out a career-high 246 batters while posting a career-best 3.15 ERA in 200 innings. In six seasons in MLB, Corbin has only thrown more innings once, when he pitched 208.1 innings in 2013. 2018 was his first season surpassing 200 strikeouts, and he did so by a mile. After Blake Snell, Corbin was the second-hardest pitcher to make contact off in 2018.
Teams like the Phillies and Yankees will now be looking elsewhere for arms to fill their starting rotation, as both were among the teams vying for Corbin to join their ranks. Many thought Corbin would end up in the Bronx; the New York native has spoken about growing up a Yankee fan in a family of generations of Yankee fans. But it seems hometown pride only goes so far; the Yankees offered Corbin $100 million over five years, not even close to competing. They’ll now have to pin(stripe) their hopes on JA Happ, Lance Lynn, or the unlikely Nathan Eovaldi, who has expressed desire to stay in Boston. No doubt Boston will try even harder to keep him now.
Corbin joins a Nationals rotation that already boasts 3-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and three-time All-Star Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals and Cubs are now the only teams with three pitchers under contract for upwards of $100 million. Corbin has been steadily improving every year since he missed the entire 2014 season and part of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery. But if all three arms can manage a healthy 2019, Washington will have a rotation to contend with the best teams in baseball.
It’ll also be interesting to see how this affects Bryce Harper‘s future. It’s well-known that the star is looking for a big contract and even bigger paycheck, and the Nationals would like to keep him around. It may be one of the reasons that Corbin will draw a deferred salary over a period longer than his contract stipulates; if the Nationals don’t have to pay Corbin as much all at once, they’ll be more financially comfortable to offer Harper the kind of money he wants.
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