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Even if Burnes is a Rental, Trade is a No-Brainer for O’s

Corbin Burnes O's announcement
photo: X/@Orioles
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For a week that started off so poorly for the Baltimore sports fan, the way it is ending is absolutely amazing. Earlier in the week we were informed that the Orioles were being sold, which was the greatest news we could have hoped for.

And now, a bomb gets set off as it was announced that the Orioles have traded for former Cy Young award winner Corbin Burnes. To get Burnes, the Orioles traded SS prospect Joey Ortiz, pitcher DL Hall and the 34th pick in the upcoming MLB draft.  The O’s still hold two other top 40 picks.

What you gave up hurts some. Ortiz is an elite glove with a solid bat and has a lot of upside as a very solid everyday shortstop. He has excellent exit velocity and is a contact guy.

Hall’s career is at a bit of a crossroads. A 25-year-old pitcher with excellent stuff, but he has battled a lot of injuries and still doesn’t even have 400 pro innings. Ironically, the Brewers could handle Hall as they did Burnes initially: let him pitch out of the pen for a few years and then convert him into a starter. My guess is they let him try to start right away and then see what they have. Hall is also part of that inner circle of O’s prospects who are very close, so this will upset some guys to see him go. And, most importantly, he was likely to be a key member of the bullpen this year, so that is a role they need to replace. Losing the draft pick and the pool money hurts as well but obviously, that’s a crap shoot.

As for Burnes, the O’s get themselves a legit top of the rotation starter. Now, there are some red flags here. His statcast numbers, while still very good, have declined each of the last few years. His fastball velocity has gone from just under 97 MPH in 2021 to just over 95 MPH in 2023. His K rate has dropped the last few years and he has seen his walk rate really jump up. In 2021, his walk rate was under two and last year, it was just over three.  His homer rate was the same in 2022 and 2023 but it was way up from 2021, although that wasn’t really a sustainable number either. His FIP last year was nearly a half run higher than his ERA. His xERA has gone from 2 to 3.05 to 3.40 the last three years. He missed fewer bats in 2023 than any year prior and his strike% was slightly below league average.

Now, I know that sounds doom and gloom but those are merely trends to look out for.  He just turned 29 and has been a durable guy. And while those stats show some decline, his stats are still really good.  He has a very good K rate, still misses bats at a high level and the batted ball stats vs him are still excellent.  His 2021 season was just so absurdly good that it does make the last two years look like he has struggled when that’s not the case.  He just hasn’t been as good as he was for that one year.

One thing about Burnes is that lefties really struggle against him.  In 2022, they had a .610 OPS and in 2023, they had a .515 OPS. Over his career, it’s just .610 overall. Obviously this is important because the new wall and dimensions favored lefties last year and they certainly are more prone to hitting homers. Milwaukee’s stadium played very similarly to OPACY according to Baseball Savant’s park factors.

This was absolutely a deal you had to make. While I like the players they traded, the O’s had to get rid of one of Ortiz or Jordan Westburg because of Jackson Holliday. Hall is promising but has his issues and even with Elias drafting, you never know what will happen with the pick.  And by the way, if Burnes doesn’t re-sign and declines the O’s qualifying offer, walking after the season, the O’s end up with a pick for him anyway, and a very similar one to that they just traded.

Along those lines, something some fans are asking is, should we extend him? If the O’s are going to be playing in the deep end now, thanks to that glorious news about selling the team, they can afford to do something like this. On the other hand, Burnes has talked about not wanting to extend (he is a Scott Boras guy) and it is fair to ask if they want to extend a guy who will be 30 in his first year of his new contract and has some red flags already? For me, I am not looking to extend him now, especially since it probably takes six to eight years at $30M+ a year. I want to see him first and see how the season goes on.

But I don’t care if this is just for one year. You have a real chance to bring a title back home and when you have that chance, you don’t allow the deal to not happen over this kind of package. You have to make the trade and really, I don’t think we could have gotten anyone better for what we gave up. We didn’t give up a lot, and it’s nothing we can’t replace. You added a legit Ace-type without trading any of your top five prospects. Even for a one-year rental, that’s still a big win.  The O’s absolutely had to add a pitcher like this to go along with with Grayson Rodriguez, Kyle Bradish, and John Means. This gives the team at least three real starters for October.

Now, they do need to replace Hall in the pen. This all but assures Tyler Wells is out there but I think that was happening anyway. They still need to add another bullpen pitcher, preferably a high-leverage arm.

This is also a feather in the cap of Mike Elias. He had yet to really pull off a big trade. This is a trade that brought us a difference-making piece and he traded some real young talent to do it. Many fans were wondering if this kind of trade would ever happen, or if guys like Ortiz would languish even longer in AAA. Great to see him get this done.

What a great week this has been for O’s fans. Spring training is roughly two weeks away and the excitement for this year has reached a new level this week.

This should only be the beginning. LFG!

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