Age: July 19, 1989 (29)
Traditional Stats: 11-7, 3.15 ERA, 33 G, 33 GS, 200 IP, 246 SO, 1.050 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, 11.1 SO/9
Advanced Stats: 137 ERA+, 2.47 FIP, 4.6 bWAR, 6.3 fWAR
In 2010, Patrick Corbin was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a four-for-one package that sent Dan Haren to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. At the time, Corbin was 21-years-old and projected to be a back-end starter after being drafted in the second-round (80th overall) in the 2009 MLB Draft by the Angels.
Eight years later, Corbin enters the offseason as one of the most heavily sought after starting pitchers on the free agent market.
Corbin reached the majors by 2012, appearing in 22 games (17 starts) and posting a 4.54 ERA over 107 innings pitched. He gained nearly two miles on his average fastball velocity from 2012 to 2013, and started to incorporate his now signature slider much more (17.1 % in 2012 to 23.0 % in 2013).
In the first half of the ’13 season, Corbin posted an 11-1 record with the third-lowest ERA (2.35) and the eighth-lowest WHIP (1.000) among qualified starting pitchers. He made his first All-Star team and finished the season with a 3.41 ERA over 32 starts. He became the youngest Diamondbacks starting pitcher in their franchise history to toss at least 200 innings in a season.
Corbin was establishing himself as an ace of a young Diamondbacks rotation, leading the staff in innings pitched (208.1), WHIP (1.166), and bWAR (3.0) in ’13.
His ascension came to an abrupt halt during spring training in 2014, as Corbin felt discomfort in his left elbow. Tommy John surgery was recommended for the upstate New York native, and he was shut down for the entire ’14 season. He returned just before the All-Star break in 2015 and made 16 starts with a 3.60 ERA.
In his first full season back from Tommy John in 2016, Corbin struggled. By mid-August Corbin posted a 4-12 record with a 5.58 ERA, with hitters posting a combined .868 OPS against him. The Diamondbacks decided to move Corbin to the bullpen for the remainder of the season, in which he had considerable success. In 12 appearances out of the pen, Corbin posted an ERA nearly three runs lower than as a starter (2.70), increased his groundball rate by 14% (52.2 to 66.1%), and saw his hard hit rate decrease by over 13 percent (40.0 to 26.8%).
Corbin was back in the rotation for the 2017 season and demonstrated much better results. His ERA was more than a full run lower than in 2016 (5.15 to 4.03), his walk percentage dropped by two percent (9.4 to 7.4), and he relied more heavily on his slider than any other season in his career (37.6%). Among qualified NL starters in ’17, Corbin’s 12.1 wSL (slider runs above average) was good for fifth best behind Max Scherzer, Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Kershaw, and Carlos Martinez.
In 2018, Corbin took his slider usage to a whole other level.
His slider was his most used pitch (41.0%) and for good reason: hitters couldn’t do anything with it. Opposing batters hit just .145 against his slider and posted a slugging percentage of .243. Of his 246 strikeouts in ’18, 195 of them were on sliders alone. Hitters missed at 53.7% of their total swings on his slider, and according to David Adler, Corbin generated the highest slider whiff rate by any starting pitcher in 2018.
One of the reasons for the increased usage of the slider was the drop in velocity on Corbin’s four seam fastball. According to Statcast, Corbin’s average four-seam fastball velocity was 92.3 in ’17, and down to 90.8 in ’18. Corbin relied on his four seamer just above 27 percent of the time in ’17, however, that usage dropped over eight percent in ’18, down to 19.1. It is worth noting that Corbin’s average four seam velocity rose back to 92 mph for the final month of the season.
Corbin made his second All-Star team in ’18 and posted career highs in starts (33), SO/9 (11.1), WHIP (1.050), ERA+ (137), and bWAR (4.6). His 15.6 swinging strike rate was second among all qualified starters behind only Max Scherzer (16.2).
Coming off a career year can only help increase Corbin’s value and appeal, in which several teams – including a few large market ones – are already rumored to be coveting the 29-year-old free agent (Yankees, Braves, Dodgers, and Giants).
It’s been long speculated that Corbin will find himself in the Bronx, as he’s from upstate New York and the Yankees have a need for a top of the rotation starter. With the Yankees staying under the luxury tax threshold this year, thus resetting their tax rate, I envision the club retooling their team to build around their young core talent. While Corbin will likely be offered a qualifying offer by the Diamondbacks for $17.9 million, there’s no way he accepts that, knowing large market teams are in need for a front of the rotation arm.
The qualifying offer won’t be much of a deterrent for interested teams considering what he provides for an organization looking to fill a void atop the rotation.
I certainly think it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Corbin to secure a contract of five to six years for roughly $20-25 million per year. The six-year, $144 million contract Cole Hamels signed with the Phillies in 2012 could certainly be a barometer for an eventual Corbin signing.
As enticing as it would be to pair Corbin with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndgergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz, forming a super rotation, I simply do not see the Mets spending that type of coin on a starting pitcher this offseason.
With several needs to fill (catcher, bullpen, right-handed power bat, back-end starter) and no clear cut budget, Corbin is more of a pipe dream than realistic signing for the Mets. The club has the potential to boast one of the best top of the rotations in the game, assuming all stay healthy. The Mets’ needs rest more in obtaining help in the back-end of the pen, finding a solution at catcher, and filling a void for a right-handed power bat to insert into the middle of their lineup.
Despite a strong second half by Jason Vargas, I find it tough to pencil him in for the number five spot in the rotation if the Mets are committed to competing in 2019. Instead, the Mets should look to sign a veteran starter to a one or two year deal as a stopgap until Justin Dunn and or David Peterson are ready for the majors. In a separate profile, John Sheridan profiled free agent right-hander Charlie Morton as a potential veteran starter to sign, who I wholeheartedly agree with.
CC Sabathia is another candidate who will likely have to settle for a one-year deal and is already comfortable and quite familiar with New York and what it takes to play here. Sabathia certainly boasts postseason experience and could be a good mentor for the rest of the starting rotation.
The apparent lack of offense – especially against left-handed pitching – and late inning pen arms will ultimately steer the Mets away from Corbin, who will be in for quite a bidding war this offseason.