Earlier this week, the Arizona Diamondbacks designated left-handed starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner for assignment.
In spite of his elite stretch of play during the 2010s, Bumgarner has fallen on hard times in recent years. Since signing a five-year, $85 million contract entering 2020, Bumgarner has posted a 5.23 ERA.
As bad as that is (especially given his contract), there's a pitcher in Washington who gives him a run for his money.
No one can dispute that fellow lefty Patrick Corbin played an integral role in the Nationals' World Series run in 2019. However, since that season, he's been as bad as Bumgarner with an even larger price tag. In fact, there's a compelling argument that Corbin has been the worse of the two.
In his 77 starts since the World Series, Corbin has pitched to a 5.84 ERA - the worst in the sport among qualifying pitchers. That number has also escalated each season, ballooning to 6.31 in his 19-loss 2022 season.
Nearly everything he throws gets hit with authority. Worst of all, his once-dominant slider has become largely ineffective, due in part to a drop in spin rate (per Statcast) for it and all of his pitches.
There's no injury to point to or clear point of overexertion, but there's a three-year sample size showing that he's highly unlikely to significantly improve.
So, why haven't the Nationals pulled the plug?
First, they owe Corbin a lot of money. He's under contract for $24 million this season, and he's slated to make $35 million next year - the final season of this deal. As bad as he's been, that's a huge sum of cash to pay someone to simply go away, so they've retained him instead.
The Nationals will also argue that Corbin's veteran presence is valuable. To some degree, that may be true. He's experienced plenty of highs and lows from which he could - theoretically - pass on some wisdom to younger hurlers. Then again, where is his head at this point? Is he in too dark a place to give off any leadership value? At a minimum, his ability to reliably pitch five or more innings per start is gone.
Lastly, the Nationals don't truly have anyone to replace Corbin with.
That may sound like a copout considering how bad he's been, but it's a reality. Washington is already fielding Chad Kuhl in its starting rotation. To dig any deeper than that, they'd be turning to someone like Joan Adon or Corey Abbott, both of whom struggled in small sample sizes last season.
There will come a point when there are five definitely better starters than Corbin in this organization. A healthy Cade Cavalli is a better option, hot prospect Jackson Rutledge could be by late this season or next year, and even reliever Thaddeus Ward might prove to be a viable backend starter. Triple-A starter Jake Irvin is also a name to know in this discussion, although he's off to a bad start to 2023.
With that stated, that day doesn't appear to be imminent. Arizona is better positioned to part with Bumgarner than the Nationals are with Corbin. Washington's starting pitching depth is likely the worst in the league, and therefore can't operate like teams such as the Diamondbacks.
Until then, Washington and its fanbase is stuck with more Corbin, starting with his scheduled Sunday start against the Minnesota Twins. However, the end of his tenure draws nearer after each start he makes.