Patrick Corbin is heading to the NL East, but not to the team that was linked to him most often this offseason.
Corbin’s agreed to a six-year deal with the Washington Nationals worth an incredible $140 million.
Nationals have agreed to terms on a deal with Patrick Corbin, according to a person familiar. Pending physical.
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) December 4, 2018
Source: Free agent starter Patrick Corbin has agreed to a six-year deal with the Washington Nationals, pending a physical.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 4, 2018
sources: Corbin gets $140M over 6
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 4, 2018
Well, that was completely unexpected.
The 29-year old Corbin was the best pitcher on this year’s free agent market after Clayton Kershaw re-signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers shortly after the World Series. With the Diamondbacks in 2018, Corbin pitched to a 3.15 ERA in 200 innings, striking out a career high 246 and walking 48. He also made his second NL All-Star team, and finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting.
In Washington, Corbin will slot into a rotation featuring 2018 NL Cy Young runner-up Max Scherzer and the oft-injured Stephen Strasburg, both of whom also have absurd, nine figure contracts. Scherzer’s deal runs through 2021, Strasburg’s goes through 2023, and Corbin’s will end following the 2025 season. The reported $140 million value of the deal checks in right between Cole Hamels’ six-year, $144 million deal with the Phillies (which just expired this offseason after Hamels was traded to the Rangers and then the Cubs) and Johan Santana’s six-year, $137.5 million deal with the Mets (which was plagued by injuries).
While the money involved here is absolutely ridiculous, the Nationals did need another starter behind Scherzer and Strasburg (when he’s not on the DL). After a breakout year in 2016, Tanner Roark has taken steps back in both 2017 and 2018 with ERAs over 4.00 in each season and peripherals to match. Gio Gonzalez was dealt to the Brewers in August. Jeremy Hellickson was fine in 19 starts, but ended the year on the DL and has bounced from team to team since being traded by the Rays after the 2014 season. Former prospect Erick Fedde had an ERA of 5.54 in ten starts. Washington’s farm system lacks much in the way of top-tier starting pitching prospects, so it was free agency, trade, or bust to improve their starting five for next year.
The elephant in the room is now what Corbin’s signing means for Bryce Harper’s future. Even with the significant deferrals in Corbin’s contract (just like the deferrals in the Scherzer and Strasburg contracts), Washington is already nearing last season’s franchise record $180 million payroll. They have roughly $54 million committed to eight other players, and are estimated to be pay around $42 million to their six arbitration eligible players (which includes Roark, Trea Turner, and Anthony Rendon, a free agent after this season). Scherzer will combine for around $30 million in salary this year post-deferral, and if you assume that Corbin will be getting at least $10 million in salary, you’re looking at about $140 million in payroll committed to 2019…and that’s without a legitimate second baseman, a top-heavy rotation, and a big fat question mark in the third outfield spot.
They could conceivably still swing bringing Harper back without completely destroying their payroll for 2019, but they’re likely going to be pushing deferrals here too, and does Harper really need to wade into those waters instead of just taking a similarly hefty deal from another team without any deferred money? The Nats are already paying $25 million combined in deferred money to Strasburg and Scherzer from 2024-28, and will still be paying Strasburg come 2030. Throw in the deferred money for Corbin, and the expected long-term deal for Harper if he returns, and you’re looking at a hell of a lot of money on the books years upon years down the road for players that aren’t even around anymore.
No matter what, one thing is for sure in the NL East – the division is going to be wild and open, with the top four teams all making big moves before the Winter Meetings.
Except for the Marlins. They’re still going to stink.