On Thursday night, the Baltimore Orioles completed one of the biggest trades in franchise history by landing Corbin Burnes from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for DL Hall and Joey Ortiz.  

The trade represents a new era for the Orioles, both in the caliber of the player acquired and the fact that they’ve proven they’re actually willing to make such an acquisition. 

Comparing Burnes to Baltimore’s prior four external additions to the rotation feels unfair, but it is necessary context for how massive this move is. 

 

 

When looking at the last three years, Burnes is in an entirely different galaxy compared to the free agent signings of Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson and the trade acquisitions of Cole Irvin and Jack Flaherty.  

His ERA begins with a two while everyone else has an ERA that starts with at least a four, and the same is true for his FIP. He’s also the only one with a WHIP under 1.000 and his K/9 stands alone at being above 10.0.  

Perhaps most amusingly, he’s also thrown more innings in the past three years than Lyles and Gibson, a pair of pitchers who were brought to Baltimore for their reputation as innings eaters. 

The only stats of note where Burnes isn’t in first place are games started, where he trails Gibson by a single game, and BB/9, where Irvin has him beat by 0.4 walks per nine innings. 

Lyles, Gibson and Irvin were all acquired to be safe, high-floor options while Flaherty was a failed reclamation project at the deadline. Meanwhile, Burnes won the 2021 Cy Young and was the ace of a Brewers team that won the NL Central last year. He’s an entirely different type of starting pitcher. 

Putting Burnes’ 2023 in the context of Orioles history further demonstrates how noteworthy this acquisition is.  

In 2023, Burnes had a 127 ERA+ across 193.2 innings. The last time an Oriole had an ERA+ above 125 across more than 190 innings was Mike Mussina back in 2000. Meanwhile, the last time anyone besides Mussina did it was Jimmy Key in 1997. 

Burnes also racked up 200 strikeouts last year, an accomplishment that has only been done by three pitchers in franchise history: Erik Bedard, Mussina and Dave McNally. 

 

Burnes also had a K/9 of 9.3 in his 193.2 innings last year, a combination of K/9 and innings that has never been reached by an Oriole. The highest K/9 an Oriole had with over 190 innings was Mike Mussina’s 8.7 K/9 in 1997, while the most innings pitched with a K/9 over 9.0 came from Bedard providing 182 innings in 2007.  

Burnes also did all of these things that have rarely, if ever, been accomplished in Baltimore during what was a “down year” relative to what he accomplished in 2021’s Cy Young season. 

Trading for Burnes is also massive because of what he represents: an aggressive acquisition by a front office that had previously shied away from it.  

During the 2022 trade deadline, the 2022-23 offseason and the 2023 trade deadline, the Orioles had the opportunity to add a difference maker to a roster that had a meaningful chance at the playoffs and they failed to do so on each occasion. It was easy to get impatient and wonder if the external additions would ever become better than Adam Frazier or Jack Flaherty, but those concerns have now vanished. 

The trade is also significant because it seems pretty easy to imagine they’ll continue to be in the discussion for this sort of trade moving forward now that Burnes exists as a precedent. 

While Hall and Ortiz are both well-regarded prospects who are MLB-ready, it certainly feels like the Orioles got a bargain landing one year of control of an ace without giving up any of their position player prospects rated more highly than Ortiz.  

It seems impossible that Jackson Holliday will get moved in a deal, but Colton Cowser and Coby Mayo are both top-100 prospects without a particularly clear path to major league playing time, making them seem like the exact kind of prospects who could’ve been in this deal. 

 

The fact that Cowser and Mayo remained in the organization means that if the Orioles find themselves needing to upgrade their rotation at the deadline or next offseason, they’ll have a very enticing pair of prospects they’ll seemingly be ready to offer.      

If the Orioles are able to continue developing position players like they have thus far in the Mike Elias era, then it also means they’ll likely always have new players available to offer in future trades. Players like Dylan Beavers, Enrique Bradfield Jr. or this year’s #22 overall pick could soon become the team’s newest top-100 prospects, making them enticing trade chips down the road.  

As long as the Orioles can continue to develop position players into top-100 prospects and have the aggression needed to offer some of them in trades, then Burnes should be just the beginning of this new era. 

Rose Katz
Rose Katz

BSL Analyst

Rose Katz is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland’s journalism school, where she worked for The Diamondback as the online managing editor and a sports blogger. As a student, she spent almost all of her time on campus in The Diamondback’s newsroom or at Xfinity Center, Ludwig Field and Maryland Stadium. Rose gained intern experience with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN).

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