Patrick Corbin, not Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, looks like the Yankees’ biggest offseason regret

Embed from Getty Images

In the next three weeks, odds are that the Yankees will have a new pitcher in the rotation. Perhaps it will be Marcus Stroman or Matt Boyd. Either way, the Yankees might not have been in a pitching predicament had they signed Patrick Corbin in the winter. Many, including yours truly, lamented the Yankees not getting Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, more so than Corbin. Lately though, Corbin looks like the one that got away.

The 29 year-old lefty has been excellent for Washington. In 113 innings and 18 starts, Corbin has a matching 3.34 ERA and FIP. He probably wouldn’t pitch quite as well in the American League, but that’s no matter. He’d be an upgrade to a rotation that currently ranks 12th in ERA and 20th in FIP. Now, in order to buoy the rotation, the team probably will have to part with young talent like Clint Frazier.


Meanwhile, the Yankees have been fine where Machado and Harper would have played. The team’s third basemen have a 127 wRC+, sixth-best in baseball. Bombers’ right and left fielders have a 126 wRC+, fifth-best in the majors. Those marks are better than Machado (116 wRC+) and Harper (118 wRC+). Does that justify the Yankees’ decision? Not exactly. They’ve had some very good fortune, particularly with players like Gio Urshela and Cameron Maybin. Luck or not, there have been far fewer complaints about Machado and Harper. That sentiment could change in the future, but for 2019, it’s not looking like a missed opportunity.

Back to Corbin. Instead of him, the Yankees re-signed JA Happ and traded for James Paxton. The former has not worked out, and although Paxton has had his ups and downs this season, he looks like a sound acquisition. Happ, who is guaranteed $34 million dollars for two seasons, was a much cheaper option compared to Corbin’s $140 million over six seasons.

Happ has pitched a little better of late, but he’s definitely looking like a penny-wise, pound-foolish signing. The Yankees saved $6 million towards their luxury tax payroll (based on average annual value of the contract) and avoided a long-term commitment, but that’s now come back to harm them in the present.

Would the Yankees still pursue another starter before the deadline if Corbin was here instead of Happ? I think so. However, the team likely wouldn’t go big fish hunting. A back-end innings eater who wouldn’t be needed in the playoffs could have been enough to get through the rest of the regular season, assuming Luis Severino does indeed return (a big if, of course).

Had the Yankees signed Corbin, the organization would have maximized its title chances today and tomorrow. First and foremost, the 2019 rotation (and beyond!) would have been better. But furthermore, the team would have felt less pressure to trade young talent. Corbin would have been a win now and later move, but instead, the Yankees settled for less.


Yankees Midseason Grades: LeMahieu, Gleyber and the Infield


News and Notes: CC, Stroman, Frazier, Juiced Balls, A Draft Signing and Dan Jennings


  1. For SM….

    I said Cashman was great…didn’t say he was the best?.

    Also, it’s pretty unfair to say Cashman had no hand in those 90’s teams. Michael set them up well and, jmo, but I think Bob Watson wasn’t more important than Cashman during his brief tenure as GM.

    Yanks never had a disaster of a season. Cash had to clean up an old roster and retool quickly with a game that had passed the Yanks by. That was most likely due to George’s decline and a regime change with some volatility due to a power struggle/reshuffling between Hank, Steve Swindal and Budget Boy Hal.

    The Sox also had some last places finishes among those 4 WS. Make no mistake, I’d switch places in a heartbeat, but those scrappy Sox won it all last year with the highest payroll ever.

    Funny how that was never an issue when discussing their Championship season…

  2. John

    Meh…this assumes that he would have pitched well for us. Which is never a guarantee with our club…see Gray, Sonny

  3. How about the value LeMahieu has provided? He’s had a much better return than Corbin. Too bad the folks that write for this site have a strong bias for paying up for past performance. Fortunately, Cashman and Fishman understand relative value.

    • Derek Albin

      I don’t root for ROI, I want the best team possible. So, I wanted Corbin over Happ. And, there’s absolutely no reason Corbin should have precluded DJLM’s signing.

      And if we’re going to talk surplus values, Corbin + DJLM >>>>>> Happ + DJLM.

      • Managing for ROI allows the Yanks to get Encarnacion for pennies on the $ and Stanton before that. The Optionality of Dry Powder is very high

      • RetroRob

        Yes, although the point of my earlier note is the team is also looking at number of years committed. I’m not saying I like it. I don’t. Yet MLB has a salary cap and planning happens not just for 2019 or 2020, but for at least five years out. It’s part of the equation that fans refuse to accept, but it’s real.

    • You know as well as anyone, Hal could have signed both Corbin and DJLM…and Manny too.

      Bottom line would have been the Yanks are a better team and the Steinbrenner’s, Crowne’s and other partners make a bit less money.

      Cashman wanted Corbin, Hal didn’t want to spend. That’s the way I see it.

      • Right. Hal could have brought the payroll up to $500 million without batting an eye. But why should he? He is running a business. Nobody complains when Bezos decides not to invest in something. But fandom demands that we expect our team owners to act like they aren’t trying to make money.

        The Yankees payroll is something like 2nd or 3rd in baseball. I really have little, as a fan, to complain about.

        Lets say all of the owners took what you said to heart and started spending more money. Would that increase the quality of the product? Absolutely not. Same major league baseball players – perhaps distributed a littler differently.

        • Hal had $150 million more in net Revenue than the nearest team last year. That’s one year.

          The $500 mil is a gross exaggeration and a strawman. As for your “Why should he” comment, you make exactly my point. Fans like you are happy to accept his agenda.

          If owners actually had to compete against each other and weren’t able to just tank seasons the game wouldn’t be more exciting and challenging?

          The NL is the Dodgers and a bunch of mediocrity. The AL Central should be published on the back of milk cartons. The West is the Astros.

          Surprised you don’t see the problems of like minded group of owners.

  4. dasit

    it’s likely cashman already knows whether severino will (be allowed to) pitch in 2019
    i’ll be studying his every comment for “tells”

    • RetroRob

      Normally I’d agree, but they’ve mismanaged a number of IL’s this year. They twice started Severino only to shut him down again, with Cashman being surprised both times. How is this happening? It’s LOLMets territory.

      • dasit

        goes all the way back to teixeira
        might be time one of hal’s audits

  5. Sam

    But don’t you feel so good that they declined to pay Corbin for his age 35 season but paid Happ for his age 36 and 37 seasons? Let’s not forget it was the years, not the AAV that really derailed the negotiations.

    • Your a Looser Trader FotD

      This is the aspect that especially galls. Saying we didn’t want to go to a 6th year for Corbin at age 35 and turning around and paying Happ for 36 and 37 was preposterously stupid on its face and completely indefensible. We caught a little lightning in a bottle with Happ last year.

      • They can get out of the third year of Happ pretty easily. OTTOMH, Happ has to pitch 165 innings next year or 27 starts for the third year option to vest.

        He’s not a guarantee for either.

  6. The fans who are now preaching that the owner’s have a cap and we should get used to it, should read, or re-read Machiavelli’s “The Prince”.

    Manny’s OPS + is 83 at Petco and 155 on the road. He still has hit 20 HR’s. Imagine what his numbers could be if YSIII was his home park instead…

    • Having unfortunately majored in philosophy in college, I’m familiar with The Prince and it’s central (and largely discredited) point that the ends justify the means. That said, try as I might, I cannot figure out how it has any bearing on MLB’s luxury tax and the soft salary cap that was created as a result.

      Manny might have performed very well in YSIII. Still doesn’t mean he was worth a 10 year $300 million commitment given the other things you can spend that money on. Unless of course we assume that owners are completely unrestrained – which is baloney. Everyone has a budget. As much as Happ has been mediocre, I’d take him and DJ on a 2 year $58 million commitment over Machado’s 10/300 any day of the week. 2 years from now we can jump on the newest flavor of the week.

      • Machiavelli advised when you conquer a land, you tell the fallen that you will kill all of the men. Over time, you kill only half and the other half are “grateful” to be spared.

        That reminds me of those now accepting the “new normal”.

      • Also, the point is, Hal isn’t spending that money on Manny or anyone else. It’s going in their pockets.

        • Well yeah, he keeps the money he doesn’t spend. That’s true in any business. If Warren Buffet owned the Yankees and he had enough money to buy all the best free agents and pay all the luxury taxes and not even blink, do you think he would? Doubtful – he’s too good a businessman. The point of a business is to earn money.

          The other question is do we have to be happy about it? Of course not. Accepting of it? Well I have to accept it because it isn’t my money and I therefore have no say in the matter.

          All that said, the point remains. Like it or not, there is a budget. And if you start with that point, it made perfect sense to not buy MM or BH.

          • Accept it all you want, you have made peace with the fact that billionaires are going to give you less for your time and money.

            The budget is an arbitrary decision made by one guy. It seems people take it as an immutable law of physics. It’s not. It’s giving the customers less so a few incredibly wealthy people can make even more.

          • The “one guy” is the guy who owns the team.

            Would baseball be a better product if the Yankees further flexed their revenue muscle and increased payroll by say 100%? Imho, the best product would be if salary was capped so every team spent roughly the same amount of money. That wouldn’t be good for *my* team, but if we’re talking about what is good for baseball…

            If salaries were higher would there be better players in MLB?

  7. Corbin at $140 million over 6 seasons is fairly expensive. If he maintains his current level of production (solid #3 starter) over 6 years then it might end up being more or less break even for the Nats. If he gets injured or declines it will end up being a poor signing. Never forget the old adage: pitchers break.

    The Yankees dodged a bullet with Machado and Harper. As another person commented, like it or not they are operating within a budget. The enormous commitment to either of those two players would have ended up costing the Yankees elsewhere. And since the Yankees have been able to more or less duplicate that production with much cheaper alternatives, they now have those bullets to use elsewhere. Like for instance, extending some of their own younger players that are getting close to free agency. I.e. perhaps Didi. Or maybe they take a run this winter on Gerrit Cole. I’d feel a lot better about an ace like Cole at 6 years and say $180 million than Corbin at 6/140.

    I didn’t like the Happ signing when it happened, but at least it’s a fairly low commitment. If he continues to eat slightly below average innings then the Yankees are getting some value. If he ends up being worthless, then it still won’t break you.

    I’m starting to think the Yankees end up with Stroman or Bauer. Mets wont trade us Wheeler. Boyd is too expensive. I wonder if maybe they could work something out for Greinke – maybe in exchange for some higher end prospects and the Dbacks eating a nice chunk of the money. Greinke would automatically make the Yankees the vast WS favorites. And with Gardner and CC coming off the books next year it should keep the budget in check.

    • SM

      After unnecessarily burning money on Encarnacion, it doesn’t seem like they actually have a budget. Spending is based on Hal’s whims.

    • chip56

      Corbin’s deal may not end well.
      Happ’s deal has been trash since day one.

      • You sign Corbin to win a WS or two now, not to extract surplus value over every year of the contract. If Corbin does perform better than his cost every season, great, it’s a colossal win.

        Unfortunately so many fans and laypeople are looking at every dollar and term of a contract and want each year and dollar to be a huge win for the owners.

        The owners already win, $13 billion in Revenue last year with BAM. They keep finding ways to expand their Revenue streams as well.

        Signing Corbin and Machado would have been like when the Yanks signed CC et al in the 08 offseason.

        • dasit

          it’s incredible that mlb owners have trained fans to accept and even applaud the maximization of profits

          • Yep. I’ll spare you my half baked theories as to why that is. Let me just say that the owners will continue to give us as little as we demand.

            MLB is giving us a real world example why Antitrust and Employment laws were enacted.

        • Your a Looser Trader FotD

          Exactly. Analyzing “WAR delivered” against contract cost is moot when the guy likely gets us squarely over the top on a flag or two. #priceless

          • Yep, I like WAR as a quick starting point just to tell me how good a player may be and how he compares to others. I don’t look at it as a financial tool and I doubt any GM uses WAR per dollar for any big contract, or contract analysis in general.

            When you bring in a big dollar star, it’s about how much he can make you in terms of boosting your viewership/broadcast deals, advertising, ticket sales and just eyeballs in general.

            I think that is where the Yanks had a problem with Machado and Harper. They already have very high attendance and viewership. They couldn’t get the numbers to work for them. George probably wouldn’t have cared about that nearly as much.

            A team with poor attendance and declining interest needs the boost these guys could provide.

            Best thing for Hal and the other owners… they all get a piece of the merchandising vig when the stars change teams and all the fans buy the new Jerseys and other branded memorabilia.

  8. RetroRob

    Probably a little too much concern still on who the Yankees didn’t sign this past off season. Corbin had a career year in 2018. He’s been solid this year, so he would have helped, but that ERA likely translates to upper 3.00 or more in the DH league and in AL East/Yankee Stadium. He’s not the ace fans crave. I’m not talking him down here as I wanted him to join the Yankees last off season and he would help this year, yet, I suspect in short order Yankee fans will be happy they didn’t sign Corbin to a six-year deal.

    Not to get preachy (ok, who am I kidding?) but we’re all going to have to get used to the concept that MLB has a salary cap. Yet, it does. That means we have to manage our expectations around that. The players agreed to this tiered luxury tax. Meanwhile, the owners took it a step further and have agreed among themselves that it’s a hard cap. None are going past that third level. What that means is teams like the Yankees have to build not only for this year, but they have to start looking at the salary implications over the coming seasons. That sucks, since the Yankees have given away one of their key advantages. Not entirely as they do spend elsewhere, but that also means on the free agent side they’ll need to take bets on players this year, and also how that factors into following seasons.

    Final judgement on 2019 has yet to come. We’ll see how October looks.

    • Rob, some of us can just do other things with our time if we feel the owners are more concerned with maximizing every dollar.

      This is likely my last season as a fan.

  9. Dan

    But maybe they wouldn’t have spent the money on DJLM if they had signed Corbin instead of Happ. The difference in their AAV’s is more than half of DJLM’s AAV, so it stands to reason that they might not have been able to “afford” adding LeMahieu to the roster…

    • Namecap Spaceman

      Exactly this! Although we don’t like it, we know the Yankees have a budget, and this year’s budget appeared to be to stay under the second luxury cap threshold. It’s reasonably likely that if the Yankees signed Corbin for what he got from Washington, we wouldn’t have signed LeMahieu.

  10. SM

    When the owner informs the media at the onset of free agency that their primary focus was on upgrading the rotation, but then they sign two mid- to late-30s, back of the rotation starters in Happ and CC, it’s fair to wonder whether or not he was being deliberately misleading to appease the fanbase.

    • My take, it was a combo of they underestimated what someone else would pay, lip service, like you said but most of all, Hal was making a point.

      That point is, Hal was showing everyone, agents, players, media and fans that he is not going to pay above whatever his valuation of a player happens to be – even if it’s capricious.

      • SM

        Then why say anything? Just be patient and don’t bid.

        • People say dumb stuff all the time. My guess is they really miscalculated how much they could get Corbin for.

          As great as Cashman is, and I honestly am saying he’s great, he muffed up this one in a bunch of ways.

          JMO, Hal is not overly bright or accomplished. My favorite quote of his when they asked him about his Revenue advantage, he never said that the Revenue numbers published by Forbes were overstated – he lamented about his expenses.

          As a former auditor, that immediately made me suspect that the Revenue estimates were accurate or lower.

          • SM

            If Cashman is great, then the GMs who won four World Series with the Red Sox since 2004 while the Yankees have won one are what… really really really great?

            The next World Series Cashman wins without the homegrown core that he inherited in 1998 will be his first.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén