And there you have it. After several months of assuming he would be, Patrick Corbin is actually not a Yankee. That's Patrick Corbin, who grew up outside of Syracuse, New York, who finished fourth this year among qualified starters in fWAR, sixth in K:9 and second in swinging strike rate behind only his now teammate, Max Scherzer; who did all that using the same anti-fastball approach that the Yankees preach to their own pitchers. Patrick Corbin should be a Yankee. He's not. Not because the Washington Nationals swooped in with some outlandish deal, or some fantastic perk, but because the richest team in baseball decided to not even make a competitive bid.
Yesterday, on a comments thread here, I wrote this:
…if they think he’s going to be a legit front-end starter for several years, which I do, then they should pay whatever the market dictates. My guess was 6/141, but they should go higher if necessary.
Luckily, we're not on The Price is Right, so my estimate was right on with what the Nationals actually paid for Corbin - six years and $140 million. The point here is not to pat myself on the back - OK it's about 30 percent back-patting - but mainly it's to say that if I, a fan with no insider information whatsoever, can get within a measly $1 million, the Yankees had to know that their reported offer of five years and $100 mil was not going to get it done. So why go through the charade? Why bring the guy in for a visit and put his name in lights on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard? Why lift the hopes of fans like me when you knew you weren't really in?
We keep hearing that the Yankees want to sign players at "their price." Their price. What the hell? In what universe does the consumer get to pick the price? Can I call Verizon tomorrow and tell them my price is now $20 per month? Can I walk into a Mercedes dealer and say "my price is $15K, whatcha got?" The price is what the market says it is, and the market for a 29-year-old, all-star, best pitcher available hasn't been $100 million in a very long time.
An extra $40 million is a lot of money, but what does it actually mean in this context? From an average annual value perspective, the Nats' offer beat the Yankees by $3.3 million per season. That's what, a backup infielder? Your fifth or sixth best reliever? The extra year that Washington threw in is 2024. So if the Yankees believe that Corbin is a front line starter, they passed on him for $3.3 mil and 2024. That's absurd for a club with annual revenues over $600 million. And if they didn't believe that, then why get involved at all?
I could chalk it up to "hey maybe Corbin's not their guy", but this has happened before. A lot. Since the 2008-09 offseason, when the Yankees brought the house down with CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett, they've signed just one top-of-the-market, much-in-demand free agent...Masahiro Tanaka in 2013. If you want to include Jacoby Ellsbury, I guess you can, but we all know he was a consolation prize after a lowball bid sent Robinson Cano packing for Seattle. In the meantime, some pretty staggering names have changed teams via free agency with the Yankees sitting either on the outskirts or out of it altogether. You can make a case that Scherzer, or Zack Greinke, or one of many others was just not their cup of tea, but none of them? Really? For ten years?
That brings us to another pattern we've seen develop in recent times, which also seems like it's about to repeat. The Yankees won't go the extra mile for the upper echelon free agents, but they don't seem to have a problem overpaying for the next rung down. They gobbled up Ellsbury for 87 percent of what they offered Cano. Five years and $85 mil for a playoff-weary reliever in Aroldis Chapman? Sure, why not? They tacked on that extra year to snag Brian McCann who they later paid to win a World Series with the Astros and for a then 36-year-old Carlos Beltran.
Hey, wait a minute. Guess who else is 36? JA Happ, the likely Corbin alternative, an aging fastball pitcher whose small sample impressive Yankee numbers from last year scream regression at a deafening pitch. If not Happ, maybe they'll dump $60 million or so in Nathan Eovaldi, who despite a nice new cutter and an excellent October still ricochets from brilliance to brutality on a start-to-start basis. One way or another, the Yankees are going to spend a lot of money on a pitcher so why not just spend it on the one guy with the six-win season on his ledger? When you shop from the lower shelves you still get plenty of risk, just without the really great reward. I don't want the store brand cereal. I want lucky fucking charms.
So dear Yankees, here's what I'd like you to do. It's only December 4th and the winter meetings haven't even started. Turn my little rant here into a steaming pile of doggie doo. Go get Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco. Get Dallas Keuchel who has a Cy Young and was top five in soft contact last year. Get Manny Machado, too, while you're at it. Or do something spectacular that I haven't even thought of. But I'm looking at ten years of evidence here, and I gotta tell ya, I'm not holding my breath.