Corbin is regarded as the best pitcher on the free agent market this offseason after a career year in 2018. The left-hander has been linked to half the teams in Major League Baseball, but the Nationals were seemingly outsiders. The Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees looked set to battle it out for his signature.
The #Nationals now have over $78M per year locked into their top three starting pitchers.
Scherzer: $30M (thru 2021)
Strasburg: $25M (thru 2023)
Corbin: $23.3M (thru 2024)https://t.co/BytKYgPrPl
— Spotrac (@spotrac) December 4, 2018
The Nationals already have two All-Star calibre starters. Corbin was at that level in 2018, though injuries and fluctuating form means he does not have the same track record guarantee as Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg. This is a bold move for a team who do not currently have a line-up capable of making the playoffs.
Washington could still see Bryce Harper return. Daniel Murphy’s absence after being traded to Chicago leaves a hole in the line-up too. For all the excitement around Juan Soto, the Nationals need to do a lot more to be a real contender in 2019.
Washington’s general manager Mike Rizzo has added relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough this winter along with catchers Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki. It’s a start, sure, but it’s nowhere near enough. They have a front three of a rotation potentially as good as any in the game – that alone is insufficient to win a title.
Maybe this move was motivated by the Mets’ fearsome front three. Maybe Rizzo just wanted to match them. There might almost be some logic to that, though it only makes sense if more big spending is going to come for position players.
If the Nationals make big steps, either via free agency or trade, to help them in 2019 and 2020, then throwing all this money at Corbin can be justified. If they do not, it becomes very hard to understand building a half-billion-dollar rotation.