Patrick Corbin, the top free-agent starter on the market this winter, has agreed to a six-year, $140 million deal with the Washington Nationals, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.
Corbin, 29, is coming off the best season of his career. A 3.15 ERA, 137 ERA+ and 11.1 K/9 helped him land in fifth place for the Cy Young. At a glance, there might be fair reason to be skeptical of that recent success. After Tommy John surgery, Corbin missed all of 2014 and half of 2015. His 2016 was lackluster; 2017 was better, but he certainly didn’t seem anything close to elite. Enter his standout performance in 2018. Look a little closer, though, and it doesn’t seem like a fluke. Rather, it marked the arrival of an entirely new approach. Until 2017, Corbin had relied mostly on fastballs. At the beginning of his career, his most frequent pitch was his sinker. Later, it was his four-seamer, but it had always been a heater. In 2017, though, he began depending on his slider. Last year, he relied on it even more—42% of his pitches were sliders, while 20% were four-seam fastballs. In just two seasons, he’d almost totally inverted the composition of his arsenal. Compare to 2016: 40% of his pitches had been four-seamers, 23% had been sliders.
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Corbin joins a Washington rotation featuring three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and three-time All-Star right-hander Stephen Strasburg.
After missing out on the postseason for the first time since 2015, Washington has been aggressive since the season ended. The Nationals traded for All-Star catcher Yan Gomes, signed catcher Kurt Suzuki to a two-year deal and traded for reliever Kyle Barraclough.
Washington has never been shy about investing money on starting pitching. The Nationals have now invested a combined $525 million on their top three starters, committing $210 million to Scherzer, $175 million to Strasburg and now $140 million to Corbin, although each contract features deferrals.
Because the Nationals exceeded the luxury tax last year and Corbin received a qualifying offer from the D-backs, the Nationals will forfeit their second- and fifth-highest picks in next June’s Draft, as well as $1 million in international bonus pool money.
If Bryce Harper signs elsewhere, the Nationals will receive a compensation pick after the fourth round, meaning they would forfeit their second-round pick and their compensation pick for Harper for signing Corbin.