The Milwaukee Brewers loudly announced their intentions for 2018 with the recent acquisitions of Christian Yelich via trade and Lorenzo Cain in free agency. These major transactions erased any doubts as to whether the franchise had flipped the switch from ‘rebuilding’ to ‘competing’ and the team is primed to contend for a playoff spot this coming season and beyond.
With an overabundance of bats now on the roster, David Stearns and company can turn their attention to finding an upgrade for the pitching staff before the season begins. All indications are that the team is exploring several different options for their starting rotation and according to a report from Jon Heyman that emerged yesterday, we can add a new name to the list of arms that the Brewers have looked into this winter: Arizona lefty Patrick Corbin.
According to Heyman, the at one point during the offseason the Brewers and Diamondbacks had “extensive talks” regarding the 28 year old southpaw. Heyman notes elsewhere within the post that the D-Backs have talked Corbin with several other clubs, as well, though the Brewers are the only team he lists specifically by name. It’s unclear whether the discussions between Arizona and Milwaukee are still active, but Corbin is still a D-Back as of this writing so it stands to reason that he could still be had in a trade if Arizona was offered the right deal.
Corbin was originally selected in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft by the Angels, but was dealt to Arizona back in 2010 as a part of the Dan Haren trade. He made his big league debut as a 22 year old back in 2012 and in parts of five seasons since then, he’s compiled a 4.12 ERA and 105 DRA- across 745.2 innings covering 139 appearances (121 starts). He missed all of the 2014 season and half of 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Corbin hasn’t lost any zip on his fastball since going under the knife, averaging 92.7 MPH - right at his career norm - last season. He also heavily utilizes a slider and mixes in a changeup. Corbin is more of an solid innings-eater than an frontline starter, and in 2017 he posted a 4.03 ERA and 97 DRA- across 189.2 innings pitched. He struck out 178 batters while walking 61 and kept the ball on the ground at a 50.4% rate. His 11.0% swinging strike rate last season was a career-best, but he does suffer from rather pronounced platoon splits. Throughout his career lefties have managed only a .656 OPS against Corbin, while right-handed batters have posted a .789 OPS. In 2017, those splits widened to .651 versus .830.
Corbin is in his final year of arbitration control and will be a free agent following the 2018 season. He’ll earn $7.5 mil during the upcoming year after agreeing to a one-year deal with Arizona a few weeks ago. Given his limited upside and only one year of remaining control, the trade cost to bring Corbin aboard doesn’t figure to be prohibitive. He wouldn’t be the on the same level as “ace” caliber starters that Milwaukee has been linked to throughout the winter, but Corbin’s presence would help raise the floor of next year’s starting rotation. If Stearns were to strike a deal with Arizona, his Opening Day rotation would start with some order of Chase Anderson, Jhoulys Chacin, Zach Davies, and Corbin in the first four spots, creating a battle between Junior Guerra, Yovani Gallardo, Aaron Wilkerson, Brandon Woodruff, and Brent Suter for the fifth starter slot. That would help bridge the gap until Jimmy Nelson returns sometime next summer from his rotator cuff surgery.
Beyond Patrick Corbin, the Brewers continue to be mentioned alongside names like Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, and trade targets like Chris Archer and Danny Salazar. After Milwaukee’s two big-ticket transactions their payroll projection for 2018 stands at about $85 mil, which still leaves plenty of room to make more moves. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Maryvale Baseball Park in about two and a half weeks, and it would come as no surprise if Slingin’ Stearns makes another addition to his pitching staff before then.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus