The Milwaukee Brewers have made a significant move in the late-offseason trade market, parting ways with their longtime ace, Corbin Burnes, who is headed to the Baltimore Orioles. In exchange, the Brewers acquire prospects Joey Ortiz and DL Hall, along with the 34th overall pick in the upcoming 2024 MLB Draft.
For Burnes, who has been a cornerstone of the Brewers’ pitching staff, this trade marks a notable change as he joins a postseason contender. Burnes, a former standout from St. Mary’s College of California, has consistently been on the radar of teams like the San Francisco Giants, but it appears they’ll have to wait until the next offseason to pursue him.
DL Hall and Joey Ortiz, while not considered top-100 prospects, bring potential to the Brewers’ system. Hall, in particular, had been a top-100 prospect until control issues hindered his progress in the upper minors. Ortiz, a minor league standout since his fourth-round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft, offers offensive promise, despite a challenging MLB debut season.
However, some may view the return package as underwhelming for the Brewers, given Burnes’ status as one of MLB’s premier pitchers. He boasts three All-Star selections and consistent top-eight finishes in National League Cy Young voting over the past four years.
The Brewers’ rationale for this trade centers on Burnes’ impending free agency, which could lead to a substantial contract demand next offseason. Rather than committing to a costly contract extension, the Brewers seem to be shifting toward a cost-effective rebuild strategy.
Meanwhile, the Orioles emerge as beneficiaries, securing Burnes for a relatively modest cost of under $16 million for the upcoming season. If Burnes leaves in free agency, the Orioles will gain a compensatory pick in the 2025 MLB Draft. This transaction raises questions about whether the San Francisco Giants should have pursued Burnes more aggressively.
Giants’ president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, had expressed interest in available pitching assets but had downplayed the likelihood of a trade like the Burnes deal. The Giants did acquire Robbie Ray, the 2021 American League Cy Young winner, but he is recovering from UCL surgery, making him a different proposition compared to Burnes.
Had the Giants pursued Burnes, they could have considered offering shortstop Marco Luciano, their third-ranked prospect, and left-handed pitcher Carson Whisenhunt, ranked sixth. These prospects outrank the Orioles’ assets traded in the same positions. While a draft pick swap isn’t feasible, the Giants could have explored including another mid-tier prospect to sweeten the deal.
Furthermore, the Giants could have targeted Brewers shortstop Willy Adames, who, like Burnes, is set to become a free agent next offseason. Acquiring Adames would have eased the pressure on Luciano to perform immediately, while strengthening the Giants’ lineup significantly.
In hindsight, Burnes’ move to the Orioles poses intriguing questions about what might have been for the San Francisco Giants and their pursuit of a high-caliber pitcher like him.