Position: Starting Pitcher
2018: 11-7, 3.15 ERA, 30.8 K%, 6.0 BB%, 1.05 WHIP, 2.43 FIP, 2.74 DRA, 5.9 WARP
How He Fits: Any team in baseball would be lucky to add a starter like Patrick Corbin to their rotation. Now a few years removed from Tommy John, Corbin turned in what was easily the best season of his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks. His win/loss record certainly wasn’t indicative of the type of pitcher that he was across 200 innings in 2018. His strikeout rate was easily the highest it’s ever been, with his ERA, WHIP, FIP, and DRA all coming in much better than his previous career marks. His walk rate was the second-best of his career.
Such improvement was primarily the result of Corbin’s change in pitch usage. He became heavily reliant on his slider, which he threw over 41 percent of the time, with his fastball usage dropping by about five percentage points. He also mixed in a curve that hadn’t previously been seen. He kept hitters off balance, and the numbers obviously show it. As such, he’d be a tremendous boost to a Cubs rotation that struggled in the consistency department last year. He fits because he’s an upper tier pitcher who would be an asset. He fits because he’d fit anywhere. In the case of Corbin, it’s not a matter of whether he’d fit. Because there are far more reasons that he wouldn’t.
Why It Won’t Work: Look, Corbin is going to be a New York Yankee. This has been the assumption for months. Corbin is from New York. The Yankees covet an upper tier starter. That’s it. Few other teams have even been mentioned as being in contention for his services. So there’s that. Additionally, he’s going to a cost a ton. As one of the only high-upside starters available this offseason, on the free agent market at least, you’re looking at 5/$125 million easily. The Cubs aren’t forking that over when they have the pitchers that they do already under contract.
Jon Lester. Cole Hamels. Yu Darvish. José Quintana. Kyle Hendricks. The Cubs already have a starting five that should be among the National League’s best, if it’s healthy. Mike Montgomery is there too. And Tyler Chatwood, like, exists? That’s five significant names and a lot of money tied up in the starting rotation. There is zero feasible way that Patrick Corbin is a name that the Cubs are able to reign into their starting five. As cool as it would be to see, it’s just entirely unrealistic. The Cubs can absolutely use some pitching depth. Corbin isn’t the type that you go out and try to sign when you’re simply in need of depth. We can probably close the book on this one.
Alternatives: The Cubs don’t really need a pitcher of Corbin’s caliber. On paper, they’re set. But they need some depth arms in the event that Darvish isn’t healthy, Hamels isn’t what he was down the stretch, Quintana never quite figures it out, or any other doomsday scenario we can possibly imagine. That said, who’s even available to fill that type of role? It’s not a terribly appealing group on the free agent market. Trevor Cahill? Clay Buchholz? Or, God forbid, Bartolo Colón? I’m honestly at a loss for what the Cubs could do here. Determining straight bullpen arms is so much easier. But this is going to be an interesting element of their offseason, especially with some of the woes they had in piecing together a pitching staff in 2018.
Lead photo Bob James from Phoenix, AZ, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons