The Baltimore Orioles finally landed a proven front-line pitcher to go with all that young hitting talent.
The Orioles acquired All-Star right-hander Corbin Burnes from the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night. Baltimore sent left-hander DL Hall, infield prospect Joey Ortiz and a competitive balance draft pick to Milwaukee in the deal for the 2021 National League Cy Young Award winner.
It’s a blockbuster for the Orioles, who were having a quiet offseason but remained hopeful of adding more pitching while preparing to defend their AL East championship.
Baltimore has a terrific core of young players — particularly position players — but had not been particularly aggressive in terms of signing free agents or making trades. That changed Thursday.
Even after a 101-win season last year, there were questions about whether the Orioles could sustain a real American League juggernaut, given their low payroll. Then on Wednesday, the team announced that Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein had agreed to buy the Orioles and become their new controlling owner, a move that could enable the franchise to spend more in the future.
The next day, the Orioles traded for Burnes, who turned 29 in October. He went 10-8 with a 3.39 ERA last year. The previous three seasons, he had an ERA under 3.00, including when he went 11-5 with a 2.43 ERA in 2021.
He can become a free agent at the end of this coming season, and that was a factor in this deal.
“Any time you trade a guy like Corbin, it’s always a difficult decision,” Brewers general manager Matt Arnold said. “I think the overarching theme here is that we’re excited about the players we’re getting back. And 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.”
Burnes joins a Baltimore rotation that was good enough to win a division title last season, but remained more of a question mark than some other areas on the roster. Kyle Bradish and rookie Grayson Rodriguez pitched well down the stretch in 2023, and now Burnes arrives as someone who can clearly be an ace when he’s pitching to his potential.
Baltimore is sending the 25-year-old Hall — a first-round pick in 2017 — to the Brewers after he went 3-0 with a 3.26 ERA last season. The 25-year-old Ortiz is ranked as baseball’s No. 63 prospect by MLB Pipeline. He hit .321 at Triple-A last year and appeared in 15 games for the Orioles.
“I wouldn’t at all look at this as any kind of rebuild at all,” Arnold said. “This is something in fact that we think helps us right now and helps us in the future.”
The competitive balance draft pick is currently 34th overall.
Ortiz’s path toward playing time was complicated in Baltimore, since the Orioles also have Gunnar Henderson, last year’s AL Rookie of the Year, on the left side of their infield. And they can expect to add shortstop Jackson Holliday — baseball’s top-ranked prospect — in the near future.
Henderson and catcher Adley Rutschman were two top prospects who already made it to Baltimore and helped the Orioles rise to the top of their division — but while the organization seems to have plenty of position-player depth, the pitching side has been more uncertain.
Milwaukee won the NL Central by nine games last year, but the trade of Burnes and the decision to non-tender Brandon Woodruff, who remains a free agent, means the Brewers will enter the season without the two cornerstones of their rotation that helped them enjoy the franchise’s greatest run of sustained success.
Woodruff injured his shoulder shortly before the start of the 2023 playoffs, and surgery could cause him to miss the entire 2024 season.
Those departures mean that Freddy Peralta will head into the season as Milwaukee’s top starting pitcher. Peralta, a 2021 All-Star, went 12-10 with a 3.86 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 165 2/3 innings last season.
The Brewers also return Wade Miley and Colin Rea. They hope to get left-hander Aaron Ashby back after he missed the entire 2023 season with a shoulder injury.
Robert Gasser, one of the players acquired in the 2022 trade that sent star closer Josh Hader to San Diego, could be ready to compete for a spot in the rotation after going 9-1 with a 3.79 ERA for Triple-A Nashville last season.