Think the Boston Red Sox were ready to throw another parade Tuesday after Patrick Corbin reportedly agreed to a six-year, $140 million contract with the Washington Nationals? Think again.
While the news was good for the Red Sox in that Corbin didn’t sign with their rival New York Yankees, the pitcher’s decision still could cost Boston when the dust settles this offseason.
Corbin, arguably the best starting pitcher available on the free agent market, had long been linked to the Yankees, who entered this offseason in need of rotation reinforcements. He’s a New York native coming off an excellent season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Yankees — always equipped with deep pockets — seemed like a logical fit for the 29-year-old left-hander. The Yankees reportedly offered Corbin a five-year deal before he agreed to sign with the Nationals.
Signing Corbin would have been huge for the Yankees, who already bolstered their rotation this offseason by acquiring fellow southpaw James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners. He often looked unhittable en route to finishing fifth in the National League Cy Young Award race — going 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and 246 strikeouts over 200 innings (11.1 K/9) — and the Red Sox struggled against lefties at times in 2018 despite winning the World Series.
That said, the residual effects of Corbin signing with the Nationals — not the Yankees — could hurt the Red Sox. It’s not like the money New York allocated to pursuing Corbin suddenly vanished into thin air, and the Yankees’ backup targets reportedly include two notable names: Nathan Eovaldi and J.A. Happ.
Eovaldi, of course, finished 2018 with Boston, emerging as a postseason hero, and Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski already acknowledged the club is interested in re-signing the hard-throwing right-hander. The problem is, Eovaldi’s market already figured to be very robust. Now, if the Yankees join the fray, his price tag could soar beyond Boston’s comfort level, preventing him from returning to the Red Sox or, at the very least, forcing the defending champs to overexert themselves financially to keep him.
Heck, what if Eovaldi actually dons pinstripes and sticks it up the Red Sox’s you-know-whats next season and beyond? It’ll be even easier then to see why Corbin signing with the Nationals was a tough break for Boston despite looking like a victory on the surface.
In the same vein, Happ — the other rumored Plan B — has had his way with the Red Sox in the past (2018 American League Division Series notwithstanding), going 8-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 21 career regular-season appearances (20 starts) against Boston. Obviously, he’s not as intimidating as Corbin, who’s a strikeout machine, but there’s plenty of familiarity there along with an impressive head-to-head track record. Happ could be a safer, more cost-efficient signing who makes an impact, particularly against the Red Sox, while also giving the Yankees even more flexibility to address other areas of need.
And we haven’t even discussed whether the Yankees’ failed pursuit of Corbin will result in them going hard after either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, two offensive superstars who would make New York’s already daunting lineup even scarier.
Basically, the Red Sox won (again) Thursday when Corbin reportedly agreed to sign with the Nationals because it kept him away from the Yankees (or another American League contender). Just don’t bank on that particular victory lasting too long, because it could lead to a less appealing set of circumstances down the road.
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