It will go down as a landmark week for the Baltimore Orioles.
First, the sale of the club. Now, Corbin Burnes.
One day after the Angelos family announced it had agreed to part with a controlling stake in the franchise, the team acquired the Milwaukee Brewers’ ace in exchange for shortstop Joey Ortiz and left-hander DL Hall.
According to The Athletic’s Keith Law’s rankings, Ortiz was the No. 5 prospect and Hall was the No. 6 prospect in the Baltimore organization ahead of the 2023 season. The Brewers will also receive a 2024 Competitive Balance Round A draft pick from the Orioles to complete the deal. The pick would be the No. 34 selection.
The Orioles, possessing perhaps the deepest farm system in baseball, were willing to move premium talent to land Burnes, the top-of-the-rotation starter they have sought all offseason.
The move is somewhat surprising for the Brewers, who appeared to solidify their status as an NL Central contender when they signed first baseman Rhys Hoskins to a two-year, $34 million free-agent contract on Jan. 23. But with Burnes eligible for free agency at the end of the season, the Brewers decided they wanted something more than a draft pick in return.
Burnes, 29, is a three-time All-Star who won the 2021 National League Cy Young Award. He recently agreed to a one-year $15,637,500 million contract with the Brewers, covering his final year of salary arbitration. But the Orioles made the deal knowing they might only keep him for the 2024 season.
Represented by Scott Boras, who prefers his clients to establish their value in open bidding, Burnes is almost certain to hit the free-agent market next offseason. The Orioles, under a new ownership group led by billionaire David Rubenstein, might at least stand a chance of retaining him.
The Orioles captured their first AL East title since 2014 last season, winning 101 games, their highest total since 1979.
The addition of Burnes will reinforce them as favorites in the division. Burnes joins a rotation that already includes two starters, Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodríguez, who were among the game’s best pitchers after the All-Star break last season.
Burnes finished 10-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 193 2/3 innings for the Brewers last season, producing the best walks-and-hits-per innings ratio in the National League and fifth best in the majors (Bradish was fourth). The Brewers spent much of the offseason debating internally whether to trade him.
It is unclear whether the trade of Burnes will trigger other moves for the Brewers, sending them into more of a building mode in Pat Murphy’s first year as the replacement for Craig Counsell as manager.
The addition of Ortiz could give the team the flexibility to trade shortstop Willy Adames, who like Burnes is a free agent at the end of the season. The Brewers also have entertained the possibility of trading closer Devin Williams, who was named the NL’s top reliever in 2023. Williams is under club control for two seasons after recently agreeing to a one-year, $7.25 million contract with a $10.5 million club option for 2025.
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