Corbin Burnes thrived in Milwaukee. He was a homegrown ace and an affordable one at that, until he wasn't.
With one year remaining until free agency, Brewers general manager Matt Arnold traded Burnes while he could still get something for him. Milwaukee's front office did not hide from that fact, despite recent reports that they planned to hold onto Burnes until at least the trade deadline.
“The overarching theme is we’re excited about the players we’re getting back. The reality of our situation is that we had one year left with Corbin. I think Corbin had been pretty public about how this was going to be his last year as a Brewer," Arnold said on Thursday night.
The issue with Arnold's statement is that he's shifting the blame onto the player, rather than management.
Yes, Burnes wanted to be paid his worth, just as every player does. But the reason the Brewers relationship with Burnes crumbled has little to do with the former Milwaukee ace. It has everything to do with how he was treated the last few years, and ownership's consistent approach to roster turnover -- trade All-Star caliber players prior to their second contracts, recoup prospects and repeat.
Brewers arbitration hearing with Corbin Burnes came back to haunt them
Just last year the Brewers took Burnes to court over $750,000. In real world money, that's worth a court appearance. In baseball, all it can do is farm relationships between players and a front office.
MLB arbitration is a nasty business. Organizations tear down their own players, forming arguments as to why an ace like Burnes isn't worth a certain price point. Burnes took the Brewers shakedown personally, and made it crystal clear that he wouldn't forget when contract negotiations came just a few years down the line.
“There’s no denying that the relationship was definitely hurt from what (transpired) over the last couple weeks. There’s really no way to get around that,” Burnes said at the time. “When some of the things that are said … they basically put me in the forefront of the reason why we didn’t make the postseason last year. That’s something that probably didn’t need to be said.”
Brewers were wrong to take Corbin Burnes to arbitration
That's something which absolutely shouldn't have been said, especially when considering that Burnes had a 2.94 ERA in 33 starts in 2022 and finished top-10 in NL Cy Young voting. Not only were the Brewers reckless, but they were incorrect in their assessment.
As a result, they saved a few pennies and killed any chance at a long-term relationship with their best player. And it's far from the first time Milwaukee's front office has taken the easy way out. The same can be said with one of Burnes best friends in Hader, who was eventually dealt to San Diego. At least in that case, the Brewers had an easy replacement in hand in Devin Williams.
This time? Well, perhaps Brewers ownership is ready to invest in some starting pitching, but I doubt it.