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With Patrick Corbin gone, free agent starter market is weak

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The Nationals plucked starter Patrick Corbin off the free agent market on Tuesday, agreeing to a six-year, $140 million contract. Now that Corbin’s gone, the free agent market for starters is quite weak. Here’s who’s left:

From this list, we can extract a handful of players — Eovaldi, Happ, Keuchel, and Morton — as being clearly better than the rest. But all of these pitchers come with warts to varying degrees. The aforementioned four just have the fewest. Those warts include age, recent injuries, and recent poor performance.

Keuchel, for instance, had a career-low strikeout rate in 2018 at 17.5 percent, a four percent decrease from the year prior. He turns 31 when the calendar turns to January and his fastball averages under 90 MPH. Patrick Corbin he is not.

Eovaldi’s stock skyrocketed with yeoman’s work during the postseason for the World Series champion Red Sox. He tossed 22 1/3 innings, including six in relief in the 18-inning barnburner with the Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Series. Eovaldi also pitched well during the regular season, compiling a 3.81 ERA across 21 starts and one relief appearance with the Rays and Red Sox. The 28-year-old, however, finished his first full season since 2016 after undergoing multiple elbow surgeries. His durability is anything but a given.

Morton has continued to get better and better following a metamorphosis that appeared to begin with the Phillies in 2016. His average fastball registered between 91-93 MPH with the Pirates, but averaged 94 MPH in his brief four-start stint with the Phillies, then came in at 95 and 96 MPH in the past two seasons with the Astros. Morton’s strikeout rate rose with it, going from 17-19 percent towards the end of his stint with the Pirates, 27 percent with the Phillies, and 26 and 29 percent in his two years in Houston. 2018 was the best year of Morton’s career as he went 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA and a 201/64 K/BB ratio in 167 innings. There’s a lot to believe in with Morton. However, he’s 35 years old and last year was the only year in his 11-year career in which he reached the 30-start plateau.

Happ has been both good and durable for much of the past five years. Over that span of time with the Blue Jays, Mariners, Pirates, and Yankees, the lefty made 145 starts to the tune of a 3.62 ERA with 782 strikeouts and 253 walks across 848 innings. Happ actually finished sixth in AL Cy Young Award balloting in 2016, but it’s the only time in his career he’s ever received votes for the award. Despite his durability and reliable production, Happ is now 36 years old and he doesn’t have nearly as high a ceiling as someone as Corbin does. While the Yankees and Phillies — both teams that heavily pursued Corbin — view Happ as a fallback, but it’s name-brand versus store-brand.

The next tier of pitchers — García, González, Jackson, Liriano, Pomeranz, Ramírez, Ross — are not the types of pitchers one would like to ink to multi-year deals. The rest of the list are pitchers likely to land minor league deals with invitations to spring training.

So now that Corbin is off the board, the best starting pitching upgrades are likely to be found via trade. The Indians have reportedly been listening to offers for Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer, for instance. It wouldn’t be surprising to see teams like the Phillies and Yankees head that route and then spend their money on the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

Roger Clemens says he’s not running for Congress

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Apparently some people in Texas wanted Roger Clemens to run for Congress? At least enough people to where Clemens felt it necessary to tell Pete Olson, the congressman whose seat is going vacant due to his retirement, that, no, he had no interest in running for it.

From ESPN:

“The climate in politics at this time is much more than I would want to undertake, along with my family considerations,” Clemens said in a message to Olson that was obtained by ABC News.

“I am a Republican and I support our President and will continue to do so,” Clemens said. “No matter who our President may be, I will continue my support of them and root for them to be successful, just as I did when President Obama was in office.”

That’s a pretty diplomatic answer from Clemens. But even if he did not have family concerns and even if the “climate” disinterested him, I’m struggling to imagine Clemens as a viable political candidate in the first place.

For as good a pitcher as he was — and for as generally popular as he may be in Texas — the guy has some serious baggage, right? And I mean that beyond just the broad arc of the PEDs controversy that surrounded him for so long. The specifics of that controversy spun off his indictment for perjury before Congress, for example. He was acquitted — and I think it was a proper acquittal — but that was not exactly his finest hour.

It also led to a nasty battle of defamation lawsuits with a drug dealer that, remarkably, caused Clemens to come off way worse than the drug dealer, and that’s quite a trick. That whole process also revealed that he had an extraordinarily problematic extra-marital relationship with a now-dead country music singer. In all, it was a profound, 100% self-inflicted, reputation-trashing, public relations disaster that, even years later, he has taken no responsibility for. It was the sort of episode that, in addition to the ammo it might give any political opponent he may have, calls into serious questions Clemens’ judgment and sense of strategy, both of which are things that, to put it lightly, can be useful in politics.

Clemens, of course, is not going to cite any of those things as a reason for not wanting to run for office, nor does he have to. His simple “no” is all he needs to say and he can go back doing whatever it is he does for the Houston Astros.

But I am struggling mightily to understand why those people who are apparently encouraging him to run for office are doing so despite all of that being out there on the record. Is fame all that matters in politics now? Is a win bought by fame the be-all and end-all, even it means electing a candidate who is profoundly compromised both ethically and morally?

Haha, just kidding. You don’t need to answer that. I think we already know the answer.