The Arizona Diamondbacks received some very troubling news earlier in the week: Opening Day starter Patrick Corbin was diagnosed with damage in his ulnar collateral ligament of his throwing elbow. His first meeting with team doctors recommended Tommy John surgery, which would effectively end the left-hander’s 2014 season before it even starts. Even if Corbin takes the rehab route, he would be out for at least six weeks. Either way, the Diamondbacks have some key decisions to make with the season just around the corner.
The injury is devastating for a couple reasons. For starters, last season Corbin was the best starter for the Arizona Diamondbacks, leading the team in wins (14), ERA (3.41), strikeouts (178) and innings pitched (208.1). He was the closest thing Arizona had to a staff ace, and his loss will be sorely missed for that reason.
The other reason involves Corbin the player. Just think; this time last season, Corbin was not even projected to make the team out of Spring Training – he had beat out then top pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs for the fifth starter spot, whom many believed was all but a lock for the job.
But that’s the funny thing about sports. Fast forward a year later and Corbin is a completely different pitcher. In one year he has transformed himself from a fringe roster player to one of the most important players in the entire organization. The strides he has taken since then are tremendous, and this injury could put that all on hold and potentially undo it.
I know that may be a little knee jerk, but as a Diamondbacks fan who has witnessed the Daniel Hudson saga in recent years, I am terrified that Corbin could potentially be going down the same dark path.
Either way, baseball moves on. For the Arizona Diamondbacks brass, the next matter of business will be how to replace Corbin’s production, a task that Arizona is surprisingly well-equipped to handle. As outlined in this article published by Inside the Zona, the “sixth and seventh” starter roles for Arizona are actually quite serviceable, with guys like Randall Delgado and Archie Bradley presumably stepping up to the role. Even long relief man Josh Collmenter could step into the role – he was a starter back in 2012.
So instead of picturing the rotation as five deep, think of each rotation as six or even seven deep (with a significant dropoff in innings pitched in the final spots). The finished product for the Arizona Diamondbacks doesn’t look all that bad:
1. Wade Miley (L)
2. Trevor Cahill (R)
3. Brandon McCarthy (R)
4. Bronson Arroyo (R)
5. Randall Delgado (R)
6. Josh Collmenter (R)
7. Archie Bradley (R)
Not very many teams have guys like Bradley or Collmenter available to make a spot start if necessary. Not to say that those guys are better than what Corbin brings to the table, but the injury doesn’t necessary drive this team into peril – Arizona will still field a competitive pitching staff in 2014.
The biggest reason for that is the Arroyo signing, which was mixed at best in terms of reception at the time. Now, the signing may be the saving grace for the 2014 Arizona season.
Another course of action would involve trading the “loser” of the shortstop spring training battle (presumably Didi Gregorious, according to hardballtalk.com) in a package to get a starting pitcher. I don’t recommend that course of action, but I imagine general manager Kevin Towers will do his due diligence on any move that may potentially make the 2014 Arizona Diamondbacks team better.
One thing is clear, though. Corbin’s loss does hurt this team. Whether or not it will require a bandage (in-house option) or surgery (drastic trade) will not be determined until the games start getting played.