What if the Yankees Signed Patrick Corbin?

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Once upon a time, the New York Yankees made a significant play at signing starting pitcher Patrick Corbin in free agency.

Despite his brother wearing a Yankees cap at his wedding, trying to convince him to join the Bronx Bombers, Corbin ultimately chose to sign a six-year, $140 million deal with the Washington Nationals.

And as they say, the rest is history.

Corbin had a stellar 2019 campaign with the Nationals, going 14-7 with a 3.25 ERA and 238 strikeouts in his first season in D.C. The southpaw took home the Warren Spahn Award, given out to the best left-handed pitcher in baseball.

The left-hander was also sensational in the World Series that year, pitching to a 3.60 ERA and picking up the win in Game 7 to help the Nationals capture their first title in franchise history. Throughout the playoffs, Corbin recorded 13.886 strikeouts per nine innings, the third-best strikeout-per-nine ratio in baseball history in a single postseason.

While Corbin was dominant from start to finish in his first season with the Nats, he's hit a rough patch ever since. In a COVID-shortened campaign last year, Corbin went 2-7 with a 4.66 ERA, giving up the most hits (85) and posting the highest WHIP (1.569) among qualified pitchers. And this year, he's off to a tough start again with a 1-3 record to go along with an abysmal 8.10 ERA.

With Corbin set to face off against the Yankees on Friday night in Washington's series opener in the Bronx, Inside the Pinstripes is asking...

What if the Yankees signed Patrick Corbin?

Ace-less

Despite missing out on the Corbin sweepstakes in 2019, the Yankees went out the next offseason and backed up the Brinks truck for ace Gerrit Cole.

Cole signed a record nine-year contract worth $324 million. Since then, the right-hander has an 11-4 record with the Yankees, dominating with a 2.38 ERA and striking out 160 batters in 19 starts. During that span, Corbin has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball with a 3-10 record, 5.56 ERA and 78 strikeouts. 

If the Yankees initially splurged on Corbin the year before, they might have been able to get over the hump in '19 and capture a World Series title. That's a big if, as their bats went cold in their ALCS loss to the Houston Astros, falling in six games.

Had Corbin been the ace they chose, it also would've likely meant that New York would not have been able to sign Cole the following offseason. 

Although the Nationals are grateful for the World Series title he helped them win, Corbin's contract is looking an albatross at the moment given how poorly he's performed as of late. They are still on the hook to pay him big money for the rest of this season, and the next three years after that, as well.

Cole on the other hand has pitched like a Cy Young. Without having him as the No. 1 starter in their rotation, the Yankees would be stuck with an underperforming, high-priced lefty in Corbin.

So, while it's always fun to reminisce and take a look at the what ifs, in this particular situation, the Yankees have dodged a long-term bullet and were rewarded with one of the best starters in the game. 

When all is said and done, Corbin might have been the best move that general manager Brian Cashman and the Yankees didn't make.

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