MLB Insider: Why the Corbin Burnes trade happened and what’s next for Brewers, Orioles

  • The Brewers trading Corbin Burnes was a long-time coming
  • The Orioles paid a steep (and worthwhile) price to go all-in on 2024
  • Milwaukee may not be finished

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Corbin Burnes
Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Corbin Burnes / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It was not a surprise that the Milwaukee Brewers traded Corbin Burnes. What was a surprise was the timing of it.

All offseason, the Brewers signaled to teams that Corbin Burnes would likely stay in Milwaukee. Their general manager Matt Arnold said the same thing at the Winter Meetings. The Rhys Hoskins signing indicated that the Brewers were all-in for 2024 and were trying for a World Series run before Burnes and Willy Adames became free agents.

Then on Thursday night, Burnes received a phone call from Brewers general manager Matt Arnold that he was being traded to the Baltimore Orioles. Then Orioles general manager Mike Elias called to welcome the star right-hander to Baltimore. Then Burnes phoned his agent, Scott Boras, to inform him of the trade – which caught Boras off guard.

Really, though, the Burnes trade was a long time coming. Once the Brewers took Burnes to an arbitration hearing in 2023 and openly bashed him to his face, the relationship between Burnes and the team was fractured to the point of no return.

“There’s no denying that the relationship is definitely hurt from what [transpired]," Burnes said at the time. “When some of the things that are said – for instance, they basically put me in the forefront of the reason why we didn’t make the postseason. That’s something that probably doesn’t need to be said.”

At that point, rival executives thought, it was only a matter of time before the small-market Brewers would trade Burnes.

Orioles went all-in on Corbin Burnes despite free agency looming

Orioles general manager Mike Elias
Baltimore Orioles general manager Mike Elias / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The move signals that the Orioles are all-in. Burnes is under contract through 2024 and will become a free agent at the end of the season. There is little hope for an extension, as Boras prefers his clients to establish their values on the open market. The Orioles knew that in making the trade and if Burnes does indeed leave in free agency, the team can recoup the draft pick that they sent to the Brewers.

The price for the Orioles — shortstop Joey Ortiz and left-hander D.L. Hall, as well as a 2024 Competitive Balance Round A draft pick — is steep. But with the Orioles’ deep farm system, it was a deal they could easily make — and allows them the flexibility to add more now or at the trade deadline.

Where do the Brewers go from here?

Brewers Willy Adames
Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Willy Adames / Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

For the Brewers, the move left many confused. It goes against everything they have said and done this offseason. So where do they turn?

It would not be a surprise if the Brewers explored the starting pitching market to replace Burnes, but with top young prospects in the minors headlined by Jacob Misiorowski, the team will be cautious about not blocking his path to pitching in the majors.

It would also not be a surprise if the Brewers listened to inquiries for Willy Adames and Devin Williams. Adames is a free agent at the end of the season and has drawn trade interest in recent years. Williams, meanwhile, is one of baseball’s best relievers and is signed through 2024 and has a club option for the 2025 season.

What the Brewers ultimately do the remainder of the offseason is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear they are open to anything and everything. The Orioles, meanwhile, showed the rest of baseball they are going for it in 2024 — and that’s something that should terrify the other 29 teams.

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