Even after trading for James Paxton, the Yankees still have their eye on adding another high-end starting pitcher. Enter free-agent LHP Patrick Corbin.
Here are the pros and cons of the Yankees signing Corbin, what he might cost and what the team should ultimately do...
What makes Corbin a better fit than others?
Corbin is coming off his most impressive season as a big leaguer. After missing all of 2014 and part of the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery, Corbin put it all back together after what started out as a promising career in 2012 (he was named a National League All-Star in 2013).
A two-time All-Star, Corbin will pitch 2019 as a 29-year-old placing him smack dab in the middle of what should be his most productive seasons. In 2018, Corbin posted an 11-7 record with a 3.15 ERA (2.47 FIP) and 1.05 WHIP. Corbin struck out 246 batters in 200 innings (11.1 K/9) and walked just 48 batters (2.2 BB/9). This type of production would rank at the top of the Yankees rotation when compared with the returning grouping of CC Sabathia, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka.
Corbin generates ground balls at a stellar rate (48.9 percent rate for his career) and kept home runs to a minimum in 2018 (allowing just 15), which had been an issue in the previous two seasons. Coupled with Corbin throwing to the large part of Yankee Stadium, this type of pitching is necessary for success in the Bronx.
We'll get to the projected contract terms for Corbin later, but another plus for the Yankees, should they sign the southpaw, is that he will not require the loss of any prospects. Adding Corbin just takes cold hard cash, which the Yanks happen to have plenty.
What makes Corbin a lesser fit than others?
Corbin tossed 200 innings in 2018, his most since the return from Tommy John surgery. We could take that as a sign that Corbin is all the way back, but potential elbow issues will remain a question for the remainder of Corbin's career. That's especially the case for a pitcher that throws his slider as heavily as he does and the fact that he throws breaking balls more than 50 percent of the time.
The Yankees will have to come to a lengthy agreement with Corbin, and as a 29-year-old there would be some genuine concern over the final one or two seasons of a five- or six-year deal. Corbin has increased innings pitched in the last few seasons, reaching 200 for the first time in his career, so the arm is not necessarily old, but trends in the game don't lie.
While Corbin, born and raised near Syracuse, New York, has outwardly demonstrated a desire to pitch in pinstripes, he's played in a smaller market and never pitched in a playoff game. The Yankees will have to ponder whether they believe Corbin can handle the bigger stage and all that comes with playing in New York.
What is Corbin's expected contract value?
The industry has projected anywhere from five-years, $85 million to six years, $129 million for Corbin. The Yankees could handle either contract after coming in under the luxury tax threshold in 2018.
Some comparable pitchers that received a contract with an average annual value of $17-21.5 million in recent seasons include Yu Darvish, Jordan Zimmermann, Rick Porcello, Jeff Samardzija and James Shields. It's easy to argue that Corbin hit free agency on the heels of a spectacular season that measures up to the ilk -- if not surpassing it -- compared with some of those starters.
If the Yankees were to sign Corbin, it would come with a loss of their second pick in the 2019 first-year player draft and a loss of $500,000 in bonus pool money for said draft, as the lefty declined the Diamondbacks qualifying offer. This should have zero effect on the Yankees pulling the trigger if they desire Corbin.
Left-handed. Ground ball pitcher. Ace-upside. Hitting his prime. Honestly, there's a lot to like about Corbin, who could be the difference maker in the Yankees rotation.
The Yankees will surely be heavily involved with Corbin to the point that the only questions that sits between them and signing him are who else gets involved and how high does his value soar? The Yankees would likely say they would be more comfortable with a five-year deal as that brings Corbin to pitching in his age-33 season as the contract concludes.
Pushing to a six-year deal would bring Corbin beyond the front end of the decline stage for many starting pitchers. As such, the Yankees may be hesitant to move that deep, unless it helps keep the average annual value of the deal down, something that is clearly important to New York.
Personally, I say Corbin should be a pitching priority for the Yanks, where the monetary value is not going to impede on other potential signings and could prove to be a significant value over the course of a five or six-year contract.