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An early look at Patrick Corbin's free agency

September 24, 2018

As the regular season comes to an end and fans start to think about the offseason, we're taking a close look at some of the most prominent players eligible for free agency this offseason. We started recently with Bryce Harper and then explored the case of Manny Machado, and now

As the regular season comes to an end and fans start to think about the offseason, we're taking a close look at some of the most prominent players eligible for free agency this offseason. We started recently with Bryce Harper and then explored the case of Manny Machado, and now we look at Patrick Corbin, who will be the top starting pitcher on the market if Clayton Kershaw does not opt out of his deal with the Dodgers.
Name: Patrick Corbin
Position: Left-handed pitcher
Team: D-backs
Age (as of Opening Day 2019): 29
2018 statistics: 11-7, 3.23 ERA, 134 ERA+ (through his Sept. 22 start)
Looking back
Corbin had a breakout season in 2013, going 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA while making the All-Star team in his second big league season. But the lefty struggled to reach those heights again after having Tommy John surgery in his March 2014, missing that entire campaign and making only 16 starts in '15. Corbin had a terrible '16 (5-13, 5.15 ERA) before bouncing back with 14 victories and a 4.03 ERA last year. This season, he has finally gotten back to that All-Star level, pitching to a 3.23 ERA through 32 starts while being selected to his second All-Star team.

Looking ahead
Corbin's big year came at the perfect time, as he's now considered by many to be the top free-agent starting pitcher this offseason. He won't turn 30 until next July, and as the top lefty on the market (ahead of Dallas Keuchel and J.A. Happ), he will surely be in demand. Corbin's hits, walks and home runs per nine innings have all gone down in each of the past two seasons, an encouraging sign for his future.
Buyer beware?
Durability no longer appears to be a factor for Corbin, who threw 189 2/3 innings last season and is approaching 200 this year. If there's a concern with him, it's whether he can sustain his 2018 level in the years ahead. Corbin set personal bests in ERA, ERA+, FIP and just about every other stat, including his average of more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings. His previous best? Last year, when Corbin averaged 8.4.
One awesome stat
Opponents have missed on 54.2 percent off their swings against Corbin's slider in 2018, and the pitch has produced an MLB-high 184 strikeouts.

Scout's take
"Depending on how things shake out this winter with options and opt-outs, it is reasonable to expect that Patrick Corbin is one of the top starting pitchers in this year's free-agent class. His age, left-handedness and dominant secondary offerings all factor into what will be a lucrative pay day this offseason. He is athletic, competitive and throws a lot of strikes with an understanding of how to pitch with his repertoire. All of those things project to age well over a multiyear commitment. He is set to top 200 innings pitched this season and that type of workload with his stuff and strikes can help any club searching for pitching. The potential pitfalls come in throwing over 40 percent sliders and already having pitched four years with a new UCL. Those factors may lead to a deal that is potentially front-loaded, but more than likely Patrick will find him a desired target for a number of teams with designs on contending in 2019."
For comp's sake
Danny Duffy was three games over .500 (36-33) with a 3.71 ERA after playing parts of six seasons with the Royals to start his career. That was enough for Kansas City to ink the left-hander to a five-year, $65 million extension before the 2017 season. Corbin has the advantage of an open market working in his favor, but the numbers (56-54, 3.93 ERA) are quite similar. Like Corbin, Duffy was coming off a year during which he posted career bests in strikeouts and walks per nine innings.
Potential fits
The Yankees are believed to be serious contenders for Corbin, who would fit nicely into New York's righty-heavy rotation in place of Happ, another impending free agent. Arizona will likely make a play to keep Corbin, though with A.J. Pollock also headed for free agency, it remains to be seen whether the D-backs can afford both. Other teams believed to be high on Corbin include the Nationals, Brewers and Mariners.

Mark Feinsand, executive reporter for MLB.com, has covered the Yankees and MLB since 2001 for the New York Daily News and MLB.com.