The National League East has dominated the headlines this week, as the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets have each made huge deals. The Washington Nationals decided to remain active, signing top starting pitcher Patrick Corbin to a contract worth $140 million over six years. While the average annual salary will be watered down thanks to deferrals, he managed to top Yu Darvish‘s contract from last offseason (6/$129 million). Corbin is the latest of a rather long list of new arrivals in Washington that includes catchers Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes and relievers Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal.
The 29-year-old lefty Corbin had a huge contract season, posting a 3.15 ERA over 200 innings pitched with peripherals suggesting that he actually pitched better, with a 2.47 FIP and a 1.050 WHIP. Furthermore, he finished fifth in Cy Young voting for the National League and earned his second career All-Star nod. While his potential has always been known, Corbin missed the entire 2014 season and part of the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery. The timing was difficult, as he was coming off of a breakout All-Star season in which he posted a 3.41 ERA with strong peripherals. Upon returning to full health, he struggled in 2016 but gradually regained his footing. The thing that really helped his success was the fact that he relied rather heavily on his slider as opposed to his fastball. His fastball lost some speed from 2017 to 2018 (1.4 mph), but he only threw it 19.7 percent of the time, down from 30.2 percent in 2017.
While I wouldn’t expect his level of production to remain consistent through the entire contract, as long as he’s healthy, he looks like a very safe option for a team that has one of the best rotations in the league already, headlined by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. I like this move for the 2019 and 2020 Nationals, but the deferrals could limit their ability to retain guys like Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner as they begin to hit free agency or to replace them with free agents. The Nationals have a rather weak system behind Juan Soto, and they have a lot of money tied up on the back-end of contracts including sizable deferrals. Scherzer is owed $15 million annually from 2022 through 2028 and Rafael Soriano still has $12 million coming to him. Furthermore, assuming Strasburg opts into the remainder of his contract with the Nationals, he will be owed $105 million through 2023.
With this signing, expect the starting pitching market to develop rather quickly with J.A. Happ, Charlie Morton, Dallas Keuchel, and Nathan Eovaldi representing the top remaining options on the market. Another name worth mentioning is the Japanese Yusei Kikuchi, who was posted yesterday.