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Orioles get the ace you wanted as they acquire Corbin Burnes from Brewers

Want a former Cy Young winner in the 2024 Orioles rotation? Here you go

Wild Card Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v Milwaukee Brewers - Game One
A maybe-ace is on the way.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Orioles have made the big splash move for the starting rotation that we have been waiting for all offseason. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported on Thursday night that the team has completed a deal to acquire 2021 NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes from the Brewers. The team announced the trade around 8:45pm. It’s a done deal.

Going to Milwaukee in the deal are shortstop prospect Joey Ortiz and lefty pitching prospect DL Hall. In addition, the Brewers will receive the Competitive Balance Round A pick from the O’s for this year’s draft.

Pardon my French for a moment, but: HOLY SHIT!

Okay. Let’s talk about Burnes. The 29-year-old righty starter has pitched his whole career with the Brewers after they drafted him in the fourth round back in 2016. He debuted as a reliever in 2018 and made his way into the starting rotation for the pandemic season of 2020. Burnes had a 2.11 ERA in 12 games during that strange year and followed it up with a masterful normal-length season in 2021, taking down that Cy Young thanks to a 2.43 ERA, 0.940 WHIP, and 234 strikeouts in 167 innings.

Now, for the panic-inclined set, and for a dose of reality for those floating up into the stratosphere, it is worth mentioning that Burnes has not been on that level the past two seasons. The 2022 and 2023 seasons have seen him fit more into the mold of an above-average starting pitcher who carries a workhorse load - he posted a combined 3.15 ERA in 395.2 innings between the past two seasons.

This has come along with declining strikeout percentages, from 35.6% in the Cy Young season to 25.5% last season. At the same time, his walk rate has increased from 5.2% to 8.4%. If that trend goes forward one more year... well, honestly, we’ll probably still be pretty happy with the deal. Burnes throwing 190 innings with a 3.80 ERA would be huge for the 2024 club’s chances of success.

The trade brings the Orioles with exactly one year of control of Burnes before he becomes a free agent. Burnes is set to make $15.6 million in his final season of arbitration. You want to take a guess that the new ownership situation being announced yesterday has had an impact on this trade happening today? It’s hard not to think that must be the case.

Don’t get your hopes up about a long-term extension following the trade, though, as Burnes is a Boras client. This is a one-year deal and it will succeed or fail based on what happens from now until (hopefully) late October.

On the players heading back to Milwaukee, these are familiar ones for fans who only had the farm system to be excited about until around June 2022. Ortiz, 25, was an Orioles fourth round pick in 2019 who was polished into a back-end top 100-type prospect after evaluators started to believe in his ability to hit in addition to a defensive pedigree that they always thought was there. Ortiz OPSed .885 in 88 games for Triple-A Norfolk last year, but his 15-game stint in Baltimore was tougher, hitting .212/.206/.242. In the eyes of some of the rankings, this knocked Ortiz down from being one of the top 100 prospects in the league.

We all know the story. The Orioles infield picture was just too crowded for Ortiz to expect to get a shot any time soon. He didn’t have to be traded, but also, he did. And now they’ve found a team that was interested in him as half of a headline.

Hall, also 25, has been with the Orioles organization so long that he predates Mike Elias by more than a full year. The 2017 first round pick has been almost a permanent prospect ever since, as there were enough believers in Hall’s ability to be a starting pitcher even as he racked up high walk rates in the minors. Elias kept saying the O’s view Hall as a starting pitcher, statements that in retrospect could be viewed as burnishing his trade value rather than their actual intent for him.

In any case, that’s the Brewers thing to decide now. Though we’ve been hearing about Hall forever, he’s got 33 big league innings to his name across the last two seasons. The walks haven’t been much of a problem for Hall out of the big league bullpen, at least so far, with a combined K/9 of 11.5 and BB/9 of 3.0. I wish success for both of these guys except for when they play the Orioles. The better that Burnes does with the O’s this year, the less any success that Ortiz or Hall enjoy will sting.

The draft pick is set for #34 overall in the 2024 draft. The Orioles had some ability to consider this pick as an expendable one after they received a bonus pick - #32 overall - when Gunnar Henderson won the AL Rookie of the Year award last season. The O’s won’t be picking three times in the top 34 picks any more, but they will be picking at #22 and #32 and that’s not bad either.

I didn’t really want Dylan Cease from the White Sox, and I was anxious about trade scenarios that would leave the Orioles possibly having to move Coby Mayo or Heston Kjerstad for starting pitchers with more control. Burnes is a guy who should be a middle-of-the-rotation workhorse at worst and if he can shade back towards his Cy Young-winning results of the not-too-distant past. They did not have to give up one of their true top prospects to get him. Hell yeah. Bring on the season.

Looking for another outlet for your Burnes excitement? Check out my breaking news episode of the podcast for this unexpected, hopefully-amazing deal: