Posted on December 4, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Washington Nationals are poised to make the first major free agent signing of the offseason. According to reports, the Nationals have agreed to a deal with left-handed ace Patrick Corbin worth $140 million over six years. As of Tuesday evening, the deal is pending a physical. Corbin was considered the top starting pitcher available on the market this winter. He figures to make an already stellar Washington rotation even better.
At the start of the season, the Nationals were not among the favorites to sign Corbin. Even in the past week, both the Yankees and Phillies made a strong push to sign him. However, those two teams reportedly unwilling to go beyond five years. By promising him a sixth season, the Nationals convinced Corbin to pass on those other clubs and head to the nation’s capital.
With free agency looming, Corbin re-established himself as one of the elite lefties in the game in 2018. In 33 starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he went 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA. It was the culmination of slow and steady progress Corbin has made after missing the 2014 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He struggled in 2016 so much that he was actually moved to the bullpen. However, he won 14 games and posted a 4.03 ERA in 2017, setting up the big year he had in 2018.
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In Washington, Corbin will be teaming up with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. With those three, the Nationals will have arguably the best starting pitching trio in the game. Scherzer is typically one of the top candidates for the Cy Young every year while Strasburg can pitch as well as anyone in baseball on any given day. Of course, given Strasburg’s injury history, the Nationals will enjoy having another top-flight starter to complement Scherzer. Strasburg is averaging less than 25 starts per season over the last four years. That makes the additional depth provided by Corbin a necessity.
With the troika of Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin in place, the likes of Tanner Roark, Joe Ross, and Erick Fedde will compete for the final two spots in Washington’s rotation. As long as those three are in complementary roles, the Nationals should feel good about their rotation heading into 2019. Of course, all of their starters will be working with the new catching tandem of Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki. The Nats traded for Gomes last week while signing Suzuki earlier this offseason.
With the Nationals committing so much money to Corbin, they are unlikely to make a serious effort to re-sign Bryce Harper. To be fair, the Nats were always going to be longshots to sign Harper. However, signing Corbin is a signal that the Nationals intend to compete in 2019 using pitching and defense. They have improved their rotation, improved their catching, and retain plenty of speed and athleticism in their outfield. Whether it’ll be enough to win an increasingly competitive NL East remains to be seen. But with the signing of Corbin, the Nationals are clearly in it to win it in 2019.