Tuesday, the Washington Nationals snatched up Patrick Corbin, the top starting pitcher on the free agent market, for the not-exactly-a-discount-price of $140 million over six years.For all the talk of Bryce Harper and the rest of Washington's lineup, it was, as tends to be the case with the Nationals, a
Tuesday, the Washington Nationals snatched up Patrick Corbin, the top starting pitcher on the free agent market, for the not-exactly-a-discount-price of $140 million over six years.
For all the talk of Bryce Harper and the rest of Washington's lineup, it was, as tends to be the case with the Nationals, a bet on pitching.
"That's how we've won," general manager Mike Rizzo said before the signing "When we put our guy on the mound [and he], each day, gives us a chance to win, you've created yourself a chance to have a really good ballclub and play deep into October."
RIzzo backed it up with the Corbin signing.
The Nationals now have one of the best rotations in baseball, and considering the combined $525 million they're paying Corbin, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, well, they better. But how do they rank among baseball's best rotations?
In the wake of Corbin's signing, here's a look at the 10 best rotations in the game at this particular moment. With Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ and others still out there unsigned, this list obviously is still subject to change, but here's how it looks right now:
1. Cleveland Indians
Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber
Assuming the rumors that the Indians would part with Kluber aren't true, this is still a rotation that'll keep the Indians atop the American League Central and holding the upstart Twins and White Sox at bay for at least one more season. Bauer was downright fantastic last year -- their best starter, really -- and Clevinger was the best starter in baseball you're pretty sure pitched in the '80s at some point. And Carrasco has been so good for them for so long you almost forget about him. Who knows, maybe Danny Salazar can return and be what he once was, too. But again: We gotta make sure they don't trade anybody.
- Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Alex Wood
Typical Dodgers -- they've got the second-best rotation in the game, and they're still looking to add. Bringing Kershaw back was always going to happen, and Buehler looks like a pitcher who's already ready to win a Cy Young Award. The Dodgers will shuffle pitchers in and out of the rotation as needed, and you can probably count on them being on the phone with the Indians pretty regularly these days. Whatever they lack, they'll end up getting.
3. Washington Nationals
Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Tanner Roark, Joe Ross
Adding Corbin obviously makes a formidable rotation even scarier, but third still seems about right for the Nats, top-to-bottom. Scherzer's the horse, and Strasburg, when healthy, has somehow become oddly underrated. If Corbin can keep up what he did in 2018, that's a daunting top three, but there's still some issues with the back of the rotation, particularly the No. 5 spot, which probably won't really end up being Ross. Erick Fedde? The Nationals, all told, could maybe use another pitcher.
4. Houston Astros
Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh, Josh James, Brad Peacock
The top two are both top-five Cy Young Award candidates, and you know they're going to add a free agent at some point this offseason, maybe Eovaldi. But having both Charlie Morton and Keuchel as free agents leaves some holes to fill. They've got Framber Valdez and Cionel Perez coming, not to mention Forrest Whitley, who might be one of their most important pitchers come September and October.
5. Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Christopher Johnson
It almost seems unfair that a team with an offense as overpowering as the Red Sox also has one of the top five rotations in the game, but hey, that's why they're the World Series champions. They'd like to keep Nathan Eovaldi around in Boston, though there are other teams -- some on this very list -- who are going hard after him. But with Sale as the guy atop the rotation who hasn't won a Cy Young Award, suffice it to say, the Red Sox will be fine either way.
6. New York Mets
Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Jason Vargas
Whatever other issues the Mets might have -- and that trade that Mets fans will be debating for generations to come -- it's impossible to argue with the top of their rotation. Syndergaard took a small step back in 2018, but he was still excellent, and Wheeler has become a better, more consistent pitcher than anyone has quite noticed. Matz put up 30 starts of sub-4.00 ERA, which you'll absolutely take from a fourth starter. The questions, still: Do they need to pick up a backend starter, and … Syndergaard's definitely staying, right?
7. Atlanta Braves
Mike Foltynewicz, Julio Teheran, Kevin Gausman, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint
The Braves had the fourth-best starter ERA in baseball last year, and the second-best in the National League, thanks largely to a terrific season from Foltynewicz, excellent backend work from Newcomb and Teheran, and a surprisingly strong finish from trade acquisition Gausman. But the real excitement here comes from the young pitchers -- from those who are already here (Toussaint) to those who are about to arrive (Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright). The Bravs are only going to move up this list.
8. St. Louis Cardinals
Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright
The Cardinals' strength isn't necessarily in their quality: It's in their quantity. In addition to those five names above, they have potential starters in Dakota Hudson, Austin Gomber, Daniel Poncedeleon, John Gant, Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes. Theoretically, St. Louis will trade some of that rotation depth in the offseason for some sort of upside bat, but the Cardinals have above-average starters everywhere, and in Flaherty, they have a potential ace.
9. Chicago Cubs
Jonathan Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish
This unit was a little bit of a disappointment last season, but still, look at those five names. Hamels might have been the Cubs' best starter after he came over at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Lester and Hendricks are proven veterans who still have plenty left, and Quintana took a step back but is still a solid starter capable of much more. And as for Darvish: He should be healthy in 2019, and even if he isn't his old self or quite worth his hefty salary … he can't possibly be worse than Tyler Chatwood was.
10. Pittsburgh Pirates
Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Trevor Williams, Ivan Nova, Joe Musgrove
Archer was the high-profile addition at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but Taillon is the true ace of this staff, and he's also three years younger than Archer. Don't sleep on Williams, by the way, who actually had a lower ERA than Taillon and had a 1.38 ERA in the second half. They could probably use an upgrade on the backend, though.
Honorable Mention: Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays (the one starter they have, anyway!)
Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.