Saturday may have been Corbin’s last Chase Field start as a Diamondback
Patrick Corbin’s start on Saturday did not go according to plan. In giving up four runs in three innings to the Colorado Rockies, the Arizona Diamondbacks found themselves even further away from the playoff picture than when they entered the game.
It was a letdown for what may have been Corbin’s final start as a Diamondback at Chase Field.
“He’s done it the right way every single time and prepared the right way and taken the ball the way an Arizona Diamondback should,” manager Torey Lovullo said before the game Saturday.
Corbin established himself as a quality left-handed pitcher this season, forming a one-two All-Star punch with Zack Greinke.
But with that success came one downfall: Corbin may demand a higher price in free agency this offseason than the Diamondbacks are able or willing to pay.
Left-handed pitchers are at a premium, and the 29-year-old is at the top of the list of southpaw free agents with former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and J.A. Happ.
“He’s put himself in a great position because he’s performed, he’s been doing it for the two years that I’ve known him,” Lovullo said.
As he developed a dominant slider, Corbin became one of the outstanding pitchers this season. Entering Saturday, his 6.2 WAR was third-best of all qualified pitchers in the MLB, highest among lefties, and his 3.09 ERA was the third-best of all qualified lefties.
Corbin is nearing his first season with 200 innings pitched since his All-Star campaign in 2013.
He suffered an elbow injury and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery after that promising season. Corbin returned for 16 starts in 2015 but couldn’t regain his form, eventually being relegated to the bullpen.
But in the final months of 2017, Corbin began to show what made him so special as an All-Star early in his career.
His 2.51 ERA over his final 10 games helped the D-backs clinch a playoff spot.
“He’s never let me down,” Lovullo said. “Every time he’s taken the ball, he’s gone out there and given me his absolute best and that’s all I can ask for as a manager.”
Lovullo, who was in his first season with Arizona, came to view Corbin differently about a month before this run started.
When pitcher Taijuan Walker went on paternity leave in July 2017, Corbin volunteered to pitch on four days rest. He gave up one run in 7.1 innings pitched, picking up the win over the Cincinnati Reds.
“That was the first time I thought, ‘Now this is a guy that’s ready to do something special for his team and this organization,'” Lovullo said.
He stepped up again in 2018.
With Walker missing most of the season due to Tommy John surgery and Robbie Ray struggling to find his 2017 form, Corbin became the second of a one-two punch with Zack Greinke. The two made the All-Star team and were bright spots of the D-backs rotation that, before the acquisition of Clay Buchholz, had serious question marks.
“No matter what happens, no matter where his career goes, whether it’s here, there … he’s done it the right way every single time,” Lovullo said.
A quick look into the offseason: Nine of the top 25 pitcher salaries this season went to left-handed pitchers, ranging from perennial Cy Young candidates like Clayton Kershaw (seven years, $215 million) to certified All-Stars like Jon Lester (six years, $155 million) to solid southpaws like Alex Cobb (four years, $57 million) and Rich Hill (3 years, $48 million).
With Greinke owed $31.5 million next season and Paul Goldschmidt about to enter his final year, Arizona may not be able to compete with the deep-pocketed ball clubs looking for left-handed help.