The Yankees have been one of the most active teams thus far in the offseason, and they’re working on their next big deal. Patrick Corbin visited with Brian Cashman and the team on Thursday, touring Yankee Stadium as the final stop of a three-stadium trip that included the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals.
Corbin was linked heavily to the Yankees earlier in the year, and the presumed outcome of this offseason was that the left-hander would sign with New York, but the competition may have finally emerged for Corbin’s services. The primary competitor looks like the Phillies, as team owner John Middleton recently said the team will be looking to spend, “and maybe even be a little stupid about it.”
Spending stupid money could go in several ways, but one of those ways could be offering a truckload of money to Corbin to pair him with Aaron Nola. It certainly isn’t a bad idea for the Phillies to try to get Corbin, but even if they ultimately fail they could drive up the price for the Yankees in negotiations.
Corbin also has a convincing case to keep a couple teams interested in him, even if the price soars. His breakout 2018 was brought on by a change Corbin made with his pitching repertoire, fully committing to a slider that improved his effectiveness from a middling starter to top of rotation stuff. A 2.47 FIP in 200 innings, coupled with a 0.7 HR/9 mark, can definitely play in the AL East.
Corbin’s previous results will limit his ceiling on the market though, so it’s safe to assume that he won’t touch the Scherzer, Kershaw, or Price-level contracts. A fairer comparison would be the type of deals Cliff Lee and Zack Greinke got. Lee, a free agent after the 2010 season, secured a five-year, $120 million contract with the Phillies, and Greinke got a six-year, $147 million pact with the Dodgers in 2012 (that included an opt-out after three years).
Lee used a three-way bidding war with the Phillies, Yankees, and Rangers to cash in on back-to-back World Series appearances, and Greinke parlayed his way to the biggest contract for a right-handed pitcher at that time. In both cases, the pitchers signed had a broader history of success than Corbin, but their contracts are outdated in today’s market. Corbin’s price could certainly rise to or even exceed Lee’s guarantee, though Greinke’s mark is probably a little out of reach.
In both cases, the team making the signing was also making an all-in commitment. Lee joining the Phillies created a super-stacked rotation alongside Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, and Greinke teamed up with prime-Kershaw to form one of the strongest 1-2 combinations we’ve seen. While today’s Yankees wouldn’t have quite the firepower as those teams did, a rotation with Severino, Corbin, Paxton, and Tanaka in any order is an elite staff, and fixes one of the few problems that the team had to solve heading into the offseason.
Because of this, the Yankees can and should go into negotiations willing to top any offer the Phillies can put up. Even if they are committed to making a big splash, the Phillies have a host of other concerns they need to address, and can make an even bigger statement by going after Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. They ultimately can’t afford to raise the stakes with the Yankees too far, and wind up committing too much to fix a problem that isn’t as important to them. The number of years the Yankees wind up offering is a fair concern, but the dollar amount in front of it shouldn’t. That’s their advantage going in, and they should fully utilize it.