Top free agent starting pitcher Patrick Corbin and the New York Yankees seemed like such an ideal match that baseball insiders have spent the better part of two years assuming that when Corbin hit free agency, pinstripes would be next. They were such a good match that Corbin’s own brother pulled out a Yankees cap during his best-man speech at Corbin’s recent wedding.
Everything pointed toward Corbin and the Yankees. The Yankees wanted another starting pitcher and were willing to pay for one. Corbin, a 29-year-old who rose through the Arizona Diamondbacks system, is from upstate New York with a family full of Yankees fans.
And then came a shocker: Corbin on Tuesday opted to sign with the Washington Nationals, who offered him six years and $140 million. Both exceeded the Yankees offer of five years and $100 million reported by Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports.
An extra year and $40 million dollars? Doesn’t matter how many Yankees caps your family owns, that’s not easy to turn down. The Nats will put Corbin in a rotation with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and hope they can continue to challenge for the postseason for the foreseeable future.
But what about the Yankees?
They’ve already landed James Paxton from the Mariners, a talented but risky pickup because of his injury history. The Yankees were said to have wanted one more pitcher — and hopefully before next week’s Winter Meetings — to solidify a rotation that will include Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. Had they landed Corbin, Yankees GM Brian Cashman would still have work to do, but it would be a bit more focused: Find at upgrade at first base, see where else the lineup could be boosted.
Now, the Yankees enter the post-Corbin phase of the offseason with their options wide open. They have the money to make a move, a few different needs to address and some interesting options in front of them. So here are four things the Yankees could do next:
1. Sign J.A. Happ or Nathan Eovaldi
This would be the most logical step as they’re the next best free agent starters on the market. Happ would be the least sexy option since he’s 36 and his price just rose in a dying-up pitching market. But he was fantastic for the Yankees after a midseason trade, going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA, so he could just what they need a price still much cheaper than Corbin. Eovaldi would be a higher-impact move after his great postseason with the Boston Red Sox. First off, it would stick it to the Red Sox, who hope to bring him back. Eovaldi can light up the radar gun, but he also comes with a higher price tag and two Tommy John surgeries. He’s the better pitcher of the two, but there’s more competition to sign him.
2. Spend a bunch of money on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado
It’s hard to imagine this offseason ending without the Yankees getting one of the premier free agents. They have the resources and want to win. With Corbin gone, there are only two guys ahead of him on Jeff Passan’s rankings. You know the names well: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Like Corbin, we’ve been talking about them going to the Yankees for years and now that free agency is here, they actually don’t fit as well as we expected. There’s been chatter about Harper moving to first base to fit the Yankees roster and Machado would have to displace someone on the left side of the Yankees infield. Machado seems like the better (and more likely) fit since there have been reports that the Yankees aren’t hotly pursuing Harper. An important wrinkle in this, though: The Phillies were also shot down by Corbin, and they too are fits for Harper and Machado. Like the Yankees, it would be hard to imagine the Phillies not getting a top-flight free agent this offseason.
3. Trade for a starter
The James Paxton thing worked out pretty well, so Cashman could dip back into the trade market and try to land his fifth starter. The Cleveland Indians could be a match, as they’re reportedly willing to part with Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco. San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner seems like a trade candidate since he’s due to be a free agent after the 2019 season. Teams like the Phillies and Brewers are reportedly interested, but there’s still plenty of room for the Yankees to join that.
4. Make a splash at first base
The other obvious need for the Yankees is at first base. So let’s imagine a scenario in which they don’t get Machado or Harper and instead invest money in a Happ/Eovaldi type free agent pitcher. Or even a Charlie Morton type. That would leave some money to add to their bullpen, since Zach Britton and David Robertson are both free agents. The Yankees could then try to make the lineup even more daunting by angling for one of the sluggers on the trade market — namely Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks or Jose Abreu from the Chicago White Sox, who are both set to be free agents after 2019.
The problem with trades is that the Yankees have already dipped into the farm system quite a bit in the past two years to get Paxton and others. Spending money is probably easier, but a greater impact might be found, at this point, with trades. Clint Frazier would be an ideal trade candidate, although his value is down. Miguel Andujar, the Rookie of the Year runner-up, could be expendable in a timeline where the Yankees get Machado and commit him to playing third base.
Point being, as all of MLB prepares for the Winter Meetings, the Yankees have a number of options, lots of money and even more incentive to make a deal.
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