News that ace pitcher Corbin Burnes was being traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Baltimore Orioles was about the last thing I expected to see on Thursday night. It was looking very much like the 2021 NL Cy Young winner would be in Milwaukee until at least the trade deadline. Instead, the Orioles swung one of the biggest offseason moves in franchise history.
In my eyes, Burnes has been the best pitcher in baseball not named Gerrit Cole over the past three seasons. Since 2021, he boasts a 2.94 ERA, 0.994 WHIP and .198 batting average against. His cutter is one of the best pitches in the game today. After watching him dominate the Chicago Cubs on many occasions, I am ecstatic to see him leave the National League.
Most teams didn’t think Burnes would be available this offseason, and the Brewers only compounded those beliefs by signing free agent Rhys Hoskins to a two-year, $34 million deal, seemingly showing a desire to compete in 2024. Trading away their best player is a surprising pivot, to say the least.
It’s a perfect move for the Orioles, as they address their lack of pitching depth by adding a real, bonafide ace. He and Kyle Bradish will form a fearsome one-two punch at the top of the rotation. This trade makes the Orioles clear favorites in the very competitive AL East, at least in my opinion.
What makes this deal even sweeter for Baltimore is that it comes just days after reviled cheapskate owner John Angelos sold the team to a new ownership group led by David Rubenstein. It took Rubenstein less than 48 hours to pull off a major move that signals a strong desire to win and gives fans confidence in their new leadership.
While Baltimore earns an A+, Milwaukee’s grade isn’t quite as exemplary. In exchange for Burnes, the team got infielder Joey Ortiz, pitcher DL Hall and a compensatory pick in this summer’s draft. With Burnes liable to walk in free agency after 2024, the Brewers benefit by getting at least something in return, and Ortiz certainly has potential. However, his payoff likely won’t be immediate, as he’s only had 33 big-league at-bats. Because this undoubtedly hurts their outlook for next season, I can’t give them more than a C for this trade.
But, thanks to their own stupidity, Milwaukee didn’t have much of a choice. I mentioned above that Burnes was likely to walk after the 2024 season. That fact is entirely the Brewers’ doing. Last year, Burnes and the Brewers went to salary arbitration over a $740,000 difference in anticipated pay. Milwaukee was unwilling to give Burnes — who was coming off a second straight phenomenal season — $10.75 million for 2023. And the Brewers somehow won this case.
Burnes publicly stated that his relationship with the Brewers was hurt by the process, saying that team representatives placed him at “the forefront” of reasons why Milwaukee missed the postseason in 2022. I cannot think of a more disrespectful way to treat your team’s best player — insulting him instead of giving him what he’s owed or exploring an extension. Hope it was worth that extra $750,000, Milwaukee.