It seemed like a matter of time before the Milwaukee Brewers traded 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes, it was just a matter of where he would go and when. Thursday night, the Baltimore Orioles got it done, sending infielder Joey Ortiz (a top-70 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline), left-handed pitcher DL Hall and a 2024 Competitive Balance Round A draft pick to Milwaukee.
The Orioles took a big step last season, winning 101 games and the AL East after winning 83 games the previous season. But they were swept in the Division Series by the eventual champion Texas Rangers, and having a legit proven ace atop their rotation remained a hole well into the offseason.
The timing of having a new owner and making the deal for Burnes in the same week may be coincidental, but the Orioles have their ace now. Perhaps just as importantly, Burnes did not wind up with a division rival.
Projecting the Baltimore Orioles starting rotation with Corbin Burnes
The Brewers severed their relationship with Burnes by taking him to an arbitration hearing before last season. This is his final year of arbitration eligibility, and he's headed for free agency after the season. The Orioles could sign him to a long-term deal, but in a vacuum trading for him is an all-in move for this season.
The Orioles are now a rising World Series favorite after acquiring Burnes, as expected. But what does their starting rotation look like now?
1, Corbin Burnes
2. Kyle Bradish
3. Grayson Rodriguez
4. John Means
5. Dean Kremer
Of course Burnes is the No. 1 for the Orioles, the Opening Day starter, etc. all befitting of his status as bankable, reliable workhorse.
Bradish had a breakthrough season in 2023, going 12-7 with a 2.83 ERA over 168.2 innings (30 starts) on his way to finishing fourth in Cy Young voting. His post All-Star break run last year (9.5 K/9, 2.34 ERA) could be a sign of another step to come this season.
Rodriguez didn't have a great rookie season overall last year (4.35 ERA, 23 starts, 122 innings), as a rough May led to a demotion to Triple-A. After returning to the Orioles, he had a 2.58 ERA over his final 13 starts.
Means returned from Tommy John surgery last September, and the surface numbers were good (2.66 ERA over four starts). His 2019 All-Star season is a long time ago now though, and his deeper numbers over last year's small sample look rough. Still, he should have every chance to lock in a rotation spot this year, health permitting with a likely innings limit during the season.
Kremer is fine back end of the rotation starter who can eat some innings. He set career-highs across the board last year (13 wins, 32 starts, 172.2 innings) with good peripherals (8.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9) and a 4.12 ERA.
The odd-man out in the Orioles' rotation right now, if only on the idea of not having all right-handers, seems to be Tyler Wells. Wells had a 3.64 ERA over 25 appearances (20 starts) for Baltimore last season, as he went at least five innings in each of his first 17 starts. He had a better first half (3.18 ERA) than second, around a demotion to Triple-A arm fatigue in the second half.
As fallback options go, primarily in case of injury, Wells is a pretty good one for the Orioles.