“We’ve always said that starting pitching is the driver,” Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said in a press release on the six-year/$140M deal the team signed free agent starter Patrick Corbin to earlier this week.
The signing was officially announced this afternoon before the team held an introductory press conference for the newest member of the rotation in the nation’s capital today.
“As the top free agent pitcher on the market this offseason,” Rizzo continued, “we targeted Patrick from the onset.
“He was one of the top pitchers in the National League in 2018 and at 29 years old, we believe the best is yet to come. We are thrilled to bring him into our organization.”
Corbin finished his final season as part of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rotation with an (11-7) record in 33 starts, posting a 3.15 ERA, 2.47 FIP, 48 walks (2.76 BB/9), 246 Ks (11.07 K/9), and a .217/.270/.337 line against in 200 innings pitched in a career-best 6.2 fWAR campaign.
Jersey over the button-down...— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) December 7, 2018
It says, "I wanna be formal, but I'm here to strike people out." pic.twitter.com/jiAGhmeL9T
What convinced Rizzo and the Nationals’ brass to invest as much as they did in a 29-year-old coming off his best season in the majors?
“As we do with anybody that we’re attracted to as far as their performances,” Rizzo said, by way of explanation, “we try to get in-depth with who they are and what kind of person they are, and I’ve said many times, when you do these types of deals it’s more about the person than it is the player, and all of our due diligence led us to the crossroads of this is a guy that we want to get to know better because this is a guy that fits everything we’re trying to do.”
Corbin told reporters today, after getting his first Nationals cap and jersey (No. 46), that the idea of joining the starting staff in D.C. was definitely appealing.
Two of his fellow starters, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, as well as new catcher Yan Gomes, and Nationals’ first baseman Ryan Zimmerman were in attendance at today’s press conference.
“I’m excited to join a ballclub and be a part of something special,” Corbin said, “and I know that this pitching staff here definitely was a big reason that I wanted to come here, so just excited to join you guys, and glad I’m part of the family.”
The catchers the Nationals added this winter, Kurt Suzuki and Gomes, were attractive to the lefty as well.
“That’s a huge part,” Corbin acknowledged, “signing Gomes and Suzuki.”
“I’ve gotten to watch them over the last couple years and it’s just a big part of the game,” he added.
“I had Jeff Mathis in Arizona the last couple years and he takes pride behind the plate, and watching these guys they do the same thing.
“I know I throw a lot of pitches down in the zone that might spike or [go] wild, but those guys save me a lot, and just having confidence with them — I like to go over a game plan before games and be on the same page so when you’re out there there is no second-[guessing], you have all the confidence in the world with that pitch.”
What gave the Nationals confidence that the pitcher they saw in 2018 was the pitcher they were signing, as opposed to the solid starter Corbin was in previous seasons?
“We like the fact that he’s several years past the Tommy John surgery,” Rizzo said.
“We’ve evaluated him as a pitcher that is learning his craft as he goes. He’s a young 29-year-old pitcher with great aptitude. Learning a pitch on the fly isn’t easy as these two guys [Scherzer and Strasburg] in the front row can attest to, but if you’re able to have the dexterity and the ability to learn new pitches at the major league level and succeed with them, that tells me something.
“Athleticism really factored into this move because we think he’s one of the more athletic pitchers in the league, and I think that that bodes well for longevity and being able to sustain your stuff. So, all those things factored in. We like that the needle is moving north at 29 years old, and we like that fact that all the sexy stats, as Mad Max says, come into play. Strikeouts up, walks are down, ERA, all those factors are going in the right direction, so we feel good about it.”
Corbin, clearly, feels good about the decision as well, and he said the visit he made to D.C. last week, when he toured interested teams, made him even more comfortable with his final decision.
“Just really excited to be here,” he said.
“Happy to be a part of this organization, the Washington Nationals. I want to thank Mike Rizzo for the opportunity, the Lerner family. Was able to have dinner with you guys a week or so ago, and just really understood this organization a lot better, and how important winning is, and for me, that’s always been a big thing for me, to have an opportunity to compete deep into the postseason.”