Orioles get their ace in Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes

Orioles get their ace in Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes

طوبیٰ Tooba 55 years ago 0 0

A day after news of a change in ownership stirred new hope around Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles acquired the proven ace they needed by trading two prospects to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes.

The Orioles, who won the American League East last year only to see a young rotation succumb in the American League Division Series, desperately needed a true No. 1 starter. They have one of the decade’s best now.

To get him, they sent promising infielder Joey Ortiz and highly regarded pitching prospect DL Hall to the Brewers. As recently as last week, Orioles General Manager Mike Elias said publicly that soaring prices on free agent starters meant his team probably would need to use the trade market to acquire the talent it needed. And no team in the major leagues had deeper prospect stores than Baltimore, which has more young infield talent than it has big league room for and therefore always seemed likely to deal a few elite infield prospects to obtain the elite starting pitching it hadn’t quite developed yet.

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Still, Ortiz and Hall qualify as a, well, haul for the Brewers. Ortiz, who seemed unlikely to supplant Gunnar Henderson or Jackson Holliday on the left side of the Orioles’ infield and likely to compete for time with Jordan Westburg at second, was listed as a top 100 prospect by ESPN as recently as this year. Hall, a lefty, struggled with injuries that limited his innings and pushed him to the bullpen by the end of last season, but the 25-year-old threw his best innings in October, looking as comfortable on the big stage as any of the young pitchers Baltimore tried.

That duo secured the Orioles just one season of Burnes, who will be a free agent next winter. The 29-year-old changed agents to Scott Boras late last year, so an extension certainly would not come at a discount, though it certainly could represent a telling first act from owner-to-be David Rubenstein if, as expected, his bid to take over as the team’s controlling owner is approved some time this summer.

Still, one year of Burnes is about as safe a bet as there can be in the modern pitching market. The master of control had what — for him — qualified as a down year in 2023, statistically the worst of any of the past three seasons. The right-hander pitched 193⅔ innings, maintained a 3.39 ERA and struck out 200 batters.

Burnes will offer front-end stability to a talented rotation that includes 2023 breakout Cy Young candidate Kyle Bradish, highly touted prospect Grayson Rodriguez, veteran lefty John Means and righty Dean Kremer. Even with Burnes in orange and black, the Orioles will still be subject to starting uncertainty, in large part because they are relying on Bradish, Rodriguez and other young pitchers to continue moving forward after unprecedented intensity and workloads in 2023.

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While Burnes represents a major step forward for Baltimore, it signals a sudden but unsurprising step back for the Brewers. Since Manager Craig Counsell bolted for more money in Chicago, Milwaukee has seemed more cautious than aggressive this offseason, prioritizing a long-term deal with promising prospect and rookie Jackson Chourio over locking up current staples. Trading Burnes, a soon-to-be free agent they would not expect to keep, signals a focus more on the future than on 2024.

If the Orioles hope to follow this group’s postseason debut in 2023 with a deep playoff run in 2024, they probably will need another top-line starter. They, like almost every contending team that entered this offseason needing starting help, probably could use two. Their pitchers and catchers will report to Sarasota, Fla., in two weeks. A bona fide big-name ace finally will be among them.

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