Case For Patrick Corbin

Reports indicate the Washington Nationals want the team acquiring Juan Soto to take back Patrick Corbin and his horrendous contract. Horrendous might be kind.

For the Nationals, it was money well spent because Corbin was a pivotal figure who helped that team win a World Series. Now, it may be time for the Mets to determine if Corbin is worth the investment to help them win a World Series.

In terms of salary, Corbin is earning $23.4 million this year, $24.4 million next year, and $35.4 million in 2024. Yes, the contract is that bad.

Now, looking at 2022 alone, Soto is earning $17.1 million. The Mets are paying Max Scherzer $43.3 million this year. When it’s a player of that caliber they’re willing to spend that amount.

If he were a free agent, you can assume the Mets (or some team) would be willing to give Soto close to $50 million per year. He’s certainly worth that much using a WAR/$ calculation.

The problem is that’s one year. Soto is arbitration eligible, and as seen Corbin’s contract gets increasingly ludicrous. As a result, that salary argument really only works one year.

Really, when you consider the money and prospect cost, the Mets will need to get something out of Corbin. There’s nothing from his Baseball Savant page to indicate that can ever be the case, at least not with Corbin starting.

That’s just the thing. The Mets are not obligated to start him. No, they merely have to have to find a suitable role where he can thrive. Right off the bat, it the numbers for him moving to the bullpen are not promising.

There are no real platoon advantage splits as both right-handed and left-handed batters have a an OPS over .860 against him. In his first inning of work, batters have a .957 OPS, and the first time through the lineup batters have a .733 OPS. Again, these are just ugly numbers.

Looking deeper, the issue for him is he just isn’t getting movement from the slider as he once did. In fact, it seems the 2019 season was the last time he did. Of course, the reason why this is such a problem is that’s his pitch. Really, his refinement and increased usage of the slider was the reason why he got the big contract from the Nationals, and also, why he was a key part of them winning the World Series.

As noted by the Washington Post, the team just doesn’t have an answer, and worse yet, it is conflicting information. Some say mechanical flaw. Others say location. To a certain degree, the answer has been just throw more sliders.

Certainly, there has been an arm angle change, and you can argue Jeremy Hefner could get him back to the right arm slot and extension.To wit, Devin Fink of Fangraphs noted the correlation for Corbin between his arm extension on the slider and the pitch’s ineffectiveness.

Moreover, velocity has been a bit of an issue, especially with his fastball. Limiting Corbin to 1-2 innings at max effort could have him throwing his fastball-slider more effectively. Yes, that is a gamble. 

However, this is a two-sided gamble. If you are the Mets, and you believe in your analytics department and Hefner, you can trust you can find a way to salvage Corbin as a reliever. You just never know if you can find the next Andrew Miller. For that matter, you’d settle for Joely Rodriguez from him right now.

Mostly, the gamble is not that you can salvage Corbin, but that Soto is so valuable he is worth taking on Corbin’s contract. To that, it really is a test as to just how deep Steve Cohen’s pockets are. If the Mets, who were more than happy to pay Robinson Cano to go away, believe they can add Corbin’s salary to the mix just to add a superstar while also being able to add additional pieces, you take the Corbin gamble.

Because if Corbin gives you anything, it is just a bonus. Ultimately, the biggest case for Corbin is he gets you Soto, and that is a very compelling case.