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Offseason Lowdown

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Lowdown: Nationals Ink Corbin

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Corbin Lands with Nationals

 

The Nationals and left-hander Patrick Corbin agreed to a six-year, $140 million contract on Tuesday. The deal is not official yet and is pending a physical. Corbin turned down a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Diamondbacks last month, so they will get an extra draft pick between the first and second rounds next summer. Corbin will join highly-paid aces Max Scherzer ($210 million contract) and Stephen Strasburg ($175 million) to form an elite starting rotation. That means they have committed more than half a billion dollars to just those three players. The Yankees had been viewed as the favorites to sign Corbin, partially because he grew up a Yankees fan. The Yankees were reportedly willing to sign him for five years but balked at adding a sixth guaranteed season. The Phillies also chased Corbin and are surely vexed that he decided to sign with their division rival.

 

Widely viewed as the best starting pitcher available in free agency this year, Corbin picked the perfect time to have a career-best season. He finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting and made the All Star team by going 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 33 starts. He amassed a whopping 246 strikeouts against just 48 walks in 200 innings pitched. He set new career highs in nearly every category this season. Amazingly, his peripherals indicate he was a tad unlucky this year and actually pitched even better than his 3.15 ERA indicates. He had a 2.47 FIP (ranked third in the majors) and a 2.61 xFIP (second in the majors), both of which are better predictors of future performance than ERA is. His 24.8 K-BB% was the fifth-best in the major leagues, behind only Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole.

 

There is no question that Corbin is coming off a fantastic campaign, the question is can he do it again? He wasn't nearly as good in 2017 (14-13 with a 4.03 ERA) and was downright bad in 2016 (5-13 with a 5.15 ERA). He missed all of 2014 and most of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery. Health is the primary concern. On the one hand he has pitched more than 600 innings and made 122 starts since recovering from his elbow surgery and hasn't missed any more time due to injury. That is a great sign. On the other hand his velocity dropped by 1.5 miles per hour this year and varied quite a bit on a start-to-start basis. Was that a sign that his arm is wearing down or was it just a change in his delivery, his grip or his pitch selection? It is hard to argue with his effectiveness -- he was better than ever despite the reduced zip on the fastball. The Nationals are obviously convinced of his health and so were the Yankees and Phillies if they were willing to offer him five-year contracts for north of $100 million as reported. Fantasy owners should invest with confidence. All pitchers are risky and could suffer a long-term injury at any moment, but there isn't much reason to believe that Corbin carries any elevated risk of injury compared to the rest of the league.

 

The change in teams portends well for his fantasy value. The Diamondbacks' home ballpark had a neutral park factor for the first time this year after they installed a humidor that depressed offense quite a bit compared to previous seasons. The Nationals' ballpark is slightly hitter-friendly, but not enough to make a big difference to his fortunes. The biggest benefit will come in terms of run support -- the Nationals will have a much better offense than the Diamondbacks even if they lose Bryce Harper as expected. The Nationals will be a contending team and the Diamondbacks probably won't. It wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Corbin eclipse his career high of 14 wins next year even if he doesn't pitch quite as well as he did last year.

 

This year's free agency period is shaping up to be more lucrative for the players than last year's campaign that saw many of the best players on the market sign for far less than expected -- and some of them didn't find a team until spring training was underway. We have already seen ace Corbin sign with the Nationals, former MVP Josh Donaldson sign with the Braves, World Series hero Steve Pearce re-sign with the Red Sox and veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki sign with the Nationals. It is a good sign for the players in the early going but we can't fully judge the situation until superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado find new homes. In case you're wondering, Jamal Collier of MLB.com reports the Nationals will continue to try to re-sign Harper despite shelling out $140 million for Corbin.

 

Mariners Can't Stop Dealing

 

The Phillies officially acquired SS Jean Segura, RHP Juan Nicasio and LHP James Pazos from the Mariners for 1B Carlos Santana and SS J.P. Crawford. The biggest piece of the deal in fantasy terms is Segura, who hit .304/.341/.415 with 10 homers, 63 RBI, 91 runs scored and 20 stolen bases in 586 at-bats. He represents a huge improvement for the Phillies over Scott Kingery, who batted just .226/.267/.338 with eight homers, 35 RBI, 55 runs and 10 steals in 452 at-bats. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Segura will receive a $1 million payment for waiving his no-trade clause to accept the trade. The bonus is expected to be paid by the Mariners. The key to the deal for the Mariners is Crawford, who didn't hit well this year but is not far removed from being one of the top prospects in baseball. Crawford will turn 24 years old next month and has a career .214/.333/.358 slash line with three homers and 18 RBI in 225 major league plate appearances over the past two seasons. He doesn't have much power and doesn't steal many bases either, so he is going to have to show some steep improvements if he is going to become a good fantasy option at shortstop. Apparently the Mariners are confident he will develop into a first--division starter because in addition to giving up Segura they were also willing to take on Carlos Santana's unwieldy contract to get him. Santana is getting up there in age (he turns 33 in April) and batted just .229/.352/.414 but registered 24 homers, 86 RBI and 82 runs scored in 679 plate appearances this year. He is owed at least $35.5 million over the next two years. He can be a fantasy liability in batting average but makes up for it in the counting stats. He is much more valuable in points leagues or formats that replace batting average with on-base percentage. He is not worthy of an early draft pick but owners could do a lot worse than Santana when filling a Utility slot in their lineups.


Free Agent Signings

 

The Diamondbacks signed RHP Merrill Kelly to a two-year, $5.5 million contract with club options for 2021 and 2022. That is a healthy sum of money for a pitcher as unheralded as Kelly. He was drafted in the eighth round of the 2010 draft by the Rays and eventually made it to Triple-A for a couple of seasons before leaving the country to test his skills in Korea. He spent the last four seasons playing for the SK Wyverns, compiling a 48-32 record with a 3.86 ERA in 119 games in the very hitter-friendly Korean Baseball Organization. The Diamondbacks will hope the 30-year-old Kelly can be the 2019 version of Miles Mikolas, who came back to the USA and thrived with the Cardinals this season after pitching in Japan for three years. Kelly will be a bit of a wild card in fantasy drafts this spring.

 

Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reported that the Astros have signed free agent catcher Robinson Chirinos to a one-year contract. Terms have not yet been disclosed. Chirinos put up a .757 OPS with 18 home runs and 65 RBI over 113 games with the Rangers in 2018. The Astros have been rumored to be targeting free agent backstops Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos and they have also talked to the Marlins about J.T. Realmuto. It wouldn't be a surprise if Chirinos is relegated to backup status before the season starts.

 

The Tigers signed LHP Matt Moore to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. Moore went 6-15 with a 5.52 ERA for the Giants in 2017 and went 3-8 with a mind-boggling 6.79 ERA with the Rangers in 2018. Moore was one of the better pitchers in the majors for a few years before undergoing Tommy John surgery in early 2014. He has struggled badly over the past four campaigns and at the age of 29 seems unlikely to regain much fantasy value any time soon, if ever.

 

Free Agency Rumors

 

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Yankees are "shifting focus" to free agent starters Nathan Eovaldi and J.A. Happ. They missed out on the offseason's top free agent pitcher when Patrick Corbin signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Nationals on Tuesday. Dennis Lin of The Athletic reports that the Padres "remain interested" in Nathan Eovaldi as well. Expect his market to heat up as he is the top right-handed starting pitcher still up for grabs.

 

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, at least a dozen teams are expected to meet with free agent outfielder Bryce Harper. The Winter Meetings start on Sunday in Las Vegas near Harper's home. Passan specifically mentions the Dodgers, White Sox, Phillies, Yankees, Cubs, Padres, Astros and Cardinals. Other big-market teams such as the Red Sox and Nationals will surely check in as well.

 

MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reports that the Diamondbacks, Angels, Yankees, Braves and Reds are among the teams showing interest in reliever Joakim Soria. Soria is 34 years old but should land a multi-year contract after posting a 3.12 ERA and 75/16 K/BB ratio over 60 2/3 innings between the White Sox and Brewers in 2018. He has 220 career saves, ranking him fifth among all active players behind Craig Kimbrel (333), Fernando Rodney (325), Kenley Jansen (268) and Aroldis Chapman (236).

 

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that starting pitcher Derek Holland is discussing multi-year contract offers with teams. Holland had to settle for a minor league contract last offseason, but he is experiencing a healthier market this winter after posting a 3.57 ERA and 169/67 K/BB ratio over 171 1/3 innings for the Giants.

 

According to Andy Martino of SNY.tv, "many rivals believe" that the Yankees will ultimately pursue free agent shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado. The Yankees have a need at shortstop with incumbent Didi Gregorius expected to miss at least the first half of the 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Phillies and White Sox among others are expected to aggressively pursue the young superstar. The Dodgers, with whom he played down the stretch and into the World Series this year, are not expected to re-sign him. They have Corey Seager coming back from injury and don't have a clear need for Machado next year. They are more likely to pursue Bryce Harper. The Phillies are believed to still have interest in Machado as a third baseman after acquiring shortstop Jean Segura from the Mariners.

 

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that MLB clubs have been notified that Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi will be available through the posting system beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday morning. The 27-year-old Kikuchi posted a 3.08 ERA and 153/45 K/BB ratio over 163 2/3 innings with the Saitama Seibu Lions in 2018. The Dodgers, Padres, Giants, and Mariners are known to be interested in Kikuchi, who is believed to prefer playing for a west coast team.

 

Jon Heyman of Fancred reports that the Phillies "will consider" free agent starter Dallas Keuchel. He is the top left-handed starter remaining on the market... According to Jim Bowden of The Athletic, the Mets have been in contact with the representatives for free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock. Pollock is reportedly looking for a contract in the five-year, $80 million range... Trevor Cahill has spoken to the Athletics about returning for the 2019 season. He went 7-4 with a 3.76 ERA in 20 starts and one relief appearance in 2018.

 

Trade Rumors

 

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Mets made contact with the Marlins again on Tuesday regarding a possible J.T. Realmuto trade. It is not clear what the Mets have left to offer after having already dealt top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to the Mariners in the deal for Edwin Diaz and Robinson CanoAccording to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Mets are "seriously considering" making Brandon Nimmo the centerpiece of their trade offer to the Marlins for Realmuto. Nimmo batted .263/.404/.483 with 17 home runs, 47 RBI and 77 runs in 140 games this year. The Marlins will surely ask for more -- Michael Conforto or Amed Rosario along with Nimmo might do the trick. Realmuto might be the most valuable catcher in the game right now and the Marlins have turned down strong offers from several teams over the last couple of seasons.

 

According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the Phillies have spoken to the Giants about Madison Bumgarner. The veteran left-hander registered a 3.26 ERA and 109 strikeouts over 129 2/3 innings in 2018 after missing the first two months of the season with a fractured pinkie. The Phillies are expected to spend big in free agency this winter and are keeping busy in the trade market as well. They swung a deal with the Mariners to land shortstop Jean Segura on Monday. Bumgarner is entering the final season of his contract and could well be on the move either this offseason or near the trade deadline this coming summer.

 

Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Padres and Yankees have had ongoing discussions on a Sonny Gray trade. Moving to the pitchers' haven of Petco Park would do wonders for Gray's fantasy value. He went 11-9 with a weak 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances for the Yankees in 2018. The Brewers, Athletics, Reds, Braves, Rangers, and Twins are among the clubs who have been linked to Gray in recent reports. The Yankees have lost confidence in Gray and seem highly likely to move him in the coming weeks.

 

Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said Tuesday that the team is unlikely to trade Noah Syndergaard because the "chips are in" to win now. The team's recent trade for Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano indicates they are in win-now mode and it would make little sense to trade away an ace like Syndergaard in that scenario.

 

Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Cardinals have discussed a possible Paul Goldschmidt trade with the Diamondbacks. There has been a lot of smoke regarding this situation for weeks now so perhaps the fire is real. Goldschmidt has just one year left on his contract with the Diamondbacks and remains a prime candidate to be moved -- if not now then at midseason. The Cardinals are on record as saying they are seeking a slugging corner infielder and Goldschmidt certainly fits that bill.

 

Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Reds are open to a possible trade for Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer with the Indians. The Reds have money to spend for the first time in a long time and they are desperate for starting pitching. They also have a nice crop of prospects on the farm with which to entice the Tribe. Kluber is owed $13 million in 2019, with a pair of club options for 2020 and 2021. Meanwhile, Bauer is under team control for two more years.

 

Quick Hits: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Robinson Cano underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after the 2018 season. He is expected to be ready to go for the start of spring training... Reds' third baseman Nick Senzel (elbow) said he's expected to be ready to swing a bat by the end of December. The Reds' top prospect and the second overall pick of the 2016 draft suffered through a bout of vertigo as well as thumb and elbow injuries this year. He is an infielder by trade but could get a chance to win the center field job after the departure of Billy Hamilton. Senzel is likely to become a strong fantasy asset in the upcoming season no matter which position he plays... Robert Murray of The Athletic reports that former Padres and Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has an agreement in place with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan... Mets center fielder Juan Lagares has recovered from his toe and foot injuries and is playing in the Dominican Winter League. He figures to start for the Mets this year if they don't make any more player moves this winter... Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Chili Davis is likely to be officially named as Mets' hitting coach on Wednesday or Thursday. He has served in the same role with the Cubs, Athletics and Red Sox in prior seasons... David O'Brien of The Athletic reports that the Braves are expected to hire Rick Kranitz as their new pitching coach. He served as the Phillies' pitching coach this past season... Jay Bruce said Monday that he was told he will remain with the Mariners entering spring training, if not all season. The veteran slugger suffered through an injury-plagued 2018 season that saw him post a .223 batting average with only nine homers and 37 RBI in 94 games for the Mets. He was one of the top 50 hitters in fantasy baseball for a long time and he is still only 31 years old, so there is a good chance he could return to fantasy relevance if he stays healthy over the next few years... Braves signed INF Pedro Florimon to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Florimon appeared in 50 games with the Phillies this past season and owns a weak .211/.270/.319 batting line in the majors... Marlins signed INF Pedro Alvarez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Alvarez, a former All-Star, has appeared in just 59 games in the majors over the past two seasons while batting .210/.298/.420 with nine homers in 161 plate appearances... The Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts have agreed to a four-year extension through 2022... Drew Rucinski has signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization. He turned in a 4.33 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 27/13 K/BB ratio over 35 1/3 innings out of the Marlins' bullpen in 2018... Eddie Butler has signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization. He registered a rough 5.62 ERA and 29/19 K/BB ratio over 49 2/3 innings between the Cubs and Rangers in 2018.

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