The primary massive free-agent pitcher is off the market: Left-hander Patrick Corbin has agreed to a six-year contract with the Washington Nationals, pending a bodily, reportedly for $140 million. That’s considerably greater than the $126 million Yu Darvish obtained from the Cubs a yr in the past.

My first response: Welcome to the division of demise.

The younger, up-and-coming Atlanta Braves are the defending division champions. They signed third baseman Josh Donaldson and possibly have two extra massive strikes to make, including a beginning pitcher and a nook outfielder.

The New York Mets acquired Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano from the Mariners, and new GM Brodie Van Wagenen stated it’s unlikely that the workforce will deal Noah Syndergaard as a result of the “chips are in” for 2019. They want to add a few bullpen items, type out first base — possibly rookie Peter Alonso is the reply — and discover a fifth starter.

  • Patrick Corbin’s hefty contract might harm the Nationals in the long term, however GM Mike Rizzo cannot be blamed for wanting to win now.

  • Philadelphia addressed an enormous want at quick with Jean Segura, whereas Seattle is giving J.P. Crawford an opportunity to meet his appreciable potential.

  • In betting that Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz will defy baseball traits, New York gave away a giant a part of its future for an opportunity to be higher proper now.

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The Philadelphia Phillies traded for Jean Segura — that they had the worst shortstop manufacturing within the majors in 2018 — and are making a tough push for Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper.

The Nationals have signed Corbin, mounted their catching drawback with Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki, added relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough, and will nonetheless carry Harper again.

The Marlins? Effectively, they tore down a sculpture.

These are the strikes the Nationals ought to have made final offseason, once they had the identical points: issues in regards to the again of the rotation, no bullpen depth and no good options at catcher. The rotation apart from Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg went 27-39 with a four.69 ERA. The bullpen ranked eighth within the NL with a four.05 ERA. The catchers ranked 27th within the majors in WAR.

In Corbin, the Nationals add a 29-year-old lefty who was the most effective starters within the majors in 2018, going 11-7 with a three.15 ERA and 246 strikeouts in 200 innings with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Corbin would not possess an overwhelming fastball, however his total swing-and-miss price of 34.7 p.c tied that of Blake Snell for highest within the majors, thanks to an unhittable slider. Corbin was certainly one of simply seven certified starters to whiff 30 p.c of the batters he confronted.

Nonetheless, it’s a high-risk signing. Heck, all long-term contracts for pitchers are excessive danger, however this one feels much more so. Corbin had by no means come shut to his 2018 stage of dominance earlier than. He struck out 30.eight p.c of the batters he confronted, in contrast to a earlier profession better of 21.9 p.c. His success relied largely on batters chasing that slider out of the strike zone, they usually may adapt and study to lay off it. Additionally, he has had Tommy John surgical procedure.

Patrick Corbin’s six-year, $140 million deal carries some danger for the Nationals, however Corbin was certainly one of baseball’s finest pitchers in 2018. Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports activities

That is the value teams are keen to pay for a premium beginning pitcher, nonetheless, even with the sordid historical past of so many of those offers blinking proper again at them. The Nationals can maybe take consolation in how nicely the Scherzer signing has labored out thus far. However, they now have three pitchers signed to mega-contracts, and the success of the franchise over the subsequent few years will relaxation to a big extent on the ligaments and tendons of Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin remaining intact.

The very best a part of the early offseason within the NL East is that you’ve got 4 teams making an attempt to enhance. That is good! It is going to make for an thrilling the rest of the offseason and an thrilling division race. Evaluate that to the American League, the place many of the league has conceded playoff spots to the Crimson Sox, Yankees and Astros and is specializing in long-term rebuilds.

In reality, you may argue that the Nationals are the favorites for the division title. Even earlier than the Corbin signing, FanGraphs projected the Nationals as one of the best workforce within the NL East:

Nationals: 90-72
Mets: 84-78
Braves: 83-79
Phillies: 78-84
Marlins: 67-95

I believe the Braves are higher than that, however I agree that the Phillies nonetheless have work to do, which is why they want to add Machado or Harper. One factor to bear in mind in regards to the Nationals is that they arguably underachieved final season in ending 82-80. Their run differential of plus-82 wasn’t far off the Braves’ complete of plus-102, so there wasn’t a giant break up in expertise stage between the golf equipment.

No, the Nationals roster would not embrace Harper, however Harper wasn’t tremendous useful final season. Washington can also be getting a full season of Juan Soto — conservatively projected to hit .291/.393/.515 — whereas probably bettering at catcher and within the bullpen. Though rookie outfielder Victor Robles won’t exchange Harper’s energy, he’s projected to hit .273/.334/.416 with velocity and good protection. Anthony Rendon is among the finest gamers within the league, and Trea Turner is among the finest all-around shortstops.

Now the Nationals have added the highest pitcher accessible in free company. In the event that they get 90 to 100 begins from the large three of Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin, they’re going to be within the race.

Let’s examine how the Braves, Mets and Phillies counter this transfer. Attempting to win — it’s enjoyable.

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