Well–didn’t see this coming. Patrick Corbin, the free agent market’s most coveted starting pitcher, is heading to Washington.

Corbin, a two-time All-Star, posted a career-best 3.15 ERA and 2.47 FIP over 200 IP last season. His slider, which accounted for 41.5% of his total pitches thrown, was one of baseball’s nastiest and most effective pitches in 2018. His increased usage of it helped him increase his K/9 from 8.4 in 2017 to 11.1 last season, and 195 of his 246 strikeouts were finished with the pitch. And now the Phillies are going to see a lot of it.


My immediate reaction is a bit mixed. Is a six-year deal worth $140 million for a 29-year-old pitcher who had one truly outstanding season, which just so happened to come in a contract year, a smart deal? No, probably not. Corbin uses his slider to set up his fastball, which is effective, but he essentially thrives off one transcendent pitch. I’m not so sure how his stuff will play in the later years of this deal, but it’s hard to imagine how his production will match his price tag. Am I devastated the Phillies didn’t just commit to dropping an average of more than $23 million in his lap through 2024? I can’t say that I am.

On the other hand, watching a stud free agent pitcher go to a division rival after hearing for weeks the Phillies were going to flex this offseason kind of sucks. I mean:

And now here we are, hours later, talking ourselves into J.A. Happ. And I’m good on Dallas Keuchel, too, by the way.

I’m not going to lie, that’s a bit of a letdown. And it also really puts the Phillies’ backs against the wall now. Does it remove the Nationals from the Bryce Harper sweepstakes? Maybe? I think? But it’s clear Washington believes the most direct path to staying competitive as the Mets, Braves, and Phillies make their moves is through pitching–and they have a ton of it.

The Phillies, after John Middleton said the whole “stupid money” thing, which might have quite possibly been the worst thing he could have said, cannot afford to miss out on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado now–and they still need a front-end starter. Not only do the Phillies need significant upgrades from a competitive standpoint, but a failure to secure at least one of these premier talents would be a public relations disaster in terms of how the organization is perceived by both fans and those around the game. The Phillies would basically be left out in the cold, holding their junk in one hand and a checkbook in the other as their division foes get better. And let’s face it, Jean Segura, J.A. Happ, and some other second and third-tier savvy moves aren’t going to be well-received by a fan base that was promised more, much, much more, after seven years of consuming a brutal product.

I hope the Phillies still want to get “stupid,” because now they pretty much have to.