One of the best free agents is off the market.
#Astros making significant progress toward signing free-agent catcher Robinson Chirinos, sources tell The Athletic. Deal is believed to be in place, pending physical.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 4, 2018
Wait, no. Not him.
Nationals have agreed to terms on a deal with Patrick Corbin, according to a person familiar. Pending physical.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) December 4, 2018
Yeah, there we go.
Patrick Corbin has signed with the Nationals for six years and $140 million. If you had him on your holiday wishlist, might I interest you in a JA Happ or uh, Lance Lynn. What about another year of Derek Holland?
Corbin signing elsewhere doesn’t come as a surprise. Not only were there no rumors of the Giants expressing interest in him, it doesn’t look like Corbin even met with teams that weren’t on the East Coast. Even if he were interested in staying on the West Coast, signing big-time free agents isn’t exactly Farhan Zaidi’s MO. In his time in LA, Zaidi’s only major signings were to re-sign Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, and Clayton Kershaw.
What is of interest is what this could mean for Madison Bumgarner. The odds of Bumgarner being traded likely haven’t raised significantly. Henry Schulman tweeted that “as of a few days ago, nothing at all was cooking.” The Phillies, one of the teams initially connected to Bumgarner in Jon Morosi’s report, were outbid for Patrick Corbin. Perhaps this creates a bit more urgency for Philadelphia, and maybe they offer the Giants something they can’t refuse.
But it’s not as if Corbin was the only good free agent starter on the market. Nathan Eovaldi is still available, as is Dallas Keuchel. It’s rumored that Yusei Kikuchi is favored to sign with a West Coast team, but maybe the Yankees or Phillies push harder after him now that neither are getting Corbin. Todd Zelecki at MLB.com reports that the Phillies are going after JA Happ. Corbin was but one pitcher on the market. His signing drives Bumgarner’s market up, but not substantially.
But Corbin’s contract may have affected what Bumgarner will receive in free agency next year. $140 million over six years is a lot of clams. It’s $11 million more than what MLB Trade Rumors predicted for him. That puts him at $23.7 million annually or two million more than what Johnny Cueto makes on average. It also outpaces Yu Darvish’s contract, which was the highest granted to a starter in last year’s free agency.
Bumgarner probably won’t be the best available free agent starter in next year’s free agent class. Even if he has a resurgent 2019, he’ll have to contend with Chris Sale as another pitcher that should get a long-term deal and Justin Verlander will be available in the short-term. Stephen Strasburg and Jake Arrieta could also opt out. Though in Arrieta’s case, the Phillies can extend him another year, and Strasburg likely won’t receive a higher AAV than his remaining $100 million over four years.
At any rate, Bumgarner isn’t going over Corbin’s deal. Depending on how Bumgarner’s season goes (and what the supply is like for starting pitching), he could still wind up matching what Corbin gets. Bumgarner and Corbin are trending in opposite directions, but only Corbin’s age 28 season was better than Bumgarner’s.
For all the rumors of Bumgarner’s demise, Bumgarner can still get his $140 million over six years. All he has to do is pitch like the Bumgarner of old. It doesn’t seem fair that the guy who had five okay-to-decent years and one great year will make as much, if not more, money over the next six years than the guy with seven good-to-great years and two okay years just because of recency and aging, but that’s free agency for you.
If Bumgarner does get what Corbin gets, that likely means Bumgarner won’t return to San Francisco. It would be the second-biggest contract signed by Zaidi (third biggest if he signs Bryce Harper). In 2015, he and the Dodgers signed Clayton Kershaw to a seven-year, $215 million contract. So Zaidi has only gone that high for a pitcher who is arguably the greatest ever. It’s worth pointing out that the Dodgers were also trying to trim payroll the entire time Zaidi was in LA, but it’s not as if the Giants have a bunch of flexibility.
While it’s looking increasingly likely the Giants will get at least one more season of Madison Bumgarner, if can command a deal like Corbin, they won’t be getting any more.