WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and left-hander Patrick Corbin officially agreed to a six-year contract on Friday, landing Washington the top free-agent starter on the market. Sources told MLB.com that the deal is worth $140 million.
"We've always said that starting pitching is the driver. As the top free-agent pitcher on the market this offseason, we targeted Patrick from the onset," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He was one of the top pitchers in the National League in 2018, and at 29 years old, we believe the best is yet to come. We are thrilled to bring him into our organization."
Corbin came to D.C. last week as part of his East Coast recruiting tour to have dinner and meet with Rizzo and owner Mark Lerner. He selected the Nationals when he reportedly had offers from the Yankees, his hometown team, and the Phillies, although reports indicated that both clubs stopped short of offering a sixth year. Washington was willing to do so in order to add Corbin to a rotation in need of another pitcher.
Corbin will join Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg at the top of the Nats' rotation, forming one of the best trios in the National League. Starting pitching has been the backbone for the Nats since Rizzo arrived as general manager, and he entered this offseason determined to add to it.
"That's how we've won," Rizzo said this weekend at the team's annual WinterFest event. "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.
"That's our philosophy. There's different ways to do this. We've seen the 'bullpenning' and that type of thing in playoff baseball, and that's fine. But for the marathon that is the season, you better have some starters that you can run out there and give you a chance to win each and every day, and that's what we've always tried to do here."
Corbin, 29, is coming off a career year with the D-backs after he tossed 200 innings with a 3.15 ERA and 246 strikeouts to 48 walks. He made the NL All-Star team for a second time and finished fifth in the voting for the NL Cy Young Award.
Corbin does come with some risk as well. He will turn 30 next summer, missed the entire 2014 season and part of '15 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and pitched out of the bullpen at times in '16. Then he improved in '17 before breaking out this year. Corbin should help bolster a Nats rotation that posted a 4.03 ERA last season, ninth among starting rotations in the NL and Washington's worst finish since 2010. That is as big a reason as any that the Nationals believe they missed the postseason for the first time since 2015.
Washington has never been shy about investing money on starting pitching. The Nationals have now invested a combined $525 million on their top three starters, committing $210 million to Scherzer, $175 million to Strasburg and now $140 million to Corbin, although each contract features deferrals.
Because the Nationals exceeded the luxury tax last year and Corbin received a qualifying offer from the D-backs, the Nationals will forfeit their second- and fifth-highest picks in next June's Draft, as well as $1 million in international bonus pool money. If Bryce Harper signs elsewhere, the Nationals will receive a compensation pick after the fourth round, meaning they would forfeit their second-round pick and their compensation pick for Harper for signing Corbin.
Since the overall value of the deal exceeded $50 million and the D-backs are a team that receives revenue sharing, Arizona will receive a comp pick at the end of the first round.
It is unclear if signing Corbin will affect the Nationals' pursuit of Harper. However, a source with knowledge of their thinking did not believe they would have any effect on each other. The Nats have prioritized a starting pitcher from the start of the offseason, but they also continue to show interest in Harper.
Washington continued its streak of aggressiveness this winter. In October, the Nationals quickly added two relievers by trading for Kyle Barraclough and signing Trevor Rosenthal. Last month, they added two catchers by signing Kurt Suzuki and trading for Yan Gomes. And now they have landed the top prize on the starting-pitching market.