Execs react to Burnes stunner: 'Scary'

February 2nd, 2024

As news of ’ trade to the Orioles began to reverberate throughout baseball, one National League executive summed up Baltimore’s move with one word.


The trade, which sent Burnes to Baltimore for shortstop Joey Ortiz, left-hander DL Hall and a 2024 Competitive Balance Round A pick (No. 34 overall), gives the Orioles -- who won an American League-high 101 games last season -- the ace they have been searching for, while the Brewers get two young, controllable players they believe will help keep them competitive going forward.

“Credit to Mike Elias and his group for making the trade and acquiring an ace,” an NL executive said. “You have to give up talent to get talent, and it’s really hard to bring in these types of guys the caliber of Burnes.”

“Playoff teams paying premium prices for guys who can pitch in the postseason,” an NL executive said when asked for his initial thoughts of the deal.

Burnes is headed into his final year prior to free agency, giving the Orioles one guaranteed year of his services unless they’re able to sign him to a contract extension.

“I definitely like it for the O’s,” an NL executive said. “The pick is a wash because they’ll get it back with [the qualifying offer]. Ortiz is trading from position of strength and Hall is very good, but pitchers are always a question mark. I also think it makes a lot of sense for Milwaukee if they were ready to move now. They’ll probably stick Hall right in the rotation and they get an everyday infielder [in Ortiz]. Especially if there’s no chance of [a Burnes] extension, this is way more than they would get at the Deadline.”

“I thought it was a fair trade for one year of Burnes,” added an NL executive.

In addition to the No. 34 pick in this summer’s Draft, the Brewers get Hall, who could move into the Brewers’ rotation after posting a 3.26 ERA in 18 relief appearances for the Orioles last season, and Ortiz, a highly-touted infielder who was blocked in Baltimore by AL Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson and No. 1 overall prospect Jackson Holliday.

“It may not line up with the historical returns for such a player, but the market seems to be valuing prospects more than ever,” an AL executive said. “Most fail, but when they hit, it’s worth so much more than one season of Burnes. I think both [Hall and Ortiz] have a shot.”

Another AL executive speculated that the Brewers could now look to add starting pitching prior to the season. Milwaukee isn’t going to suddenly shell out the money to sign free agents Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery, but general manager Matt Arnold might have some more moves up his sleeve.

One source said Milwaukee could be open to a trade of closer Devin Williams, who has two years of club control remaining prior to free agency. Another potential trade chip is shortstop Willy Adames, who is set to become a free agent at the end of this season. With hard-throwing Abner Uribe viewed by many as a future closer and Ortiz now in tow as a potential replacement for Adames, Williams and/or Adames could be used to acquire more rotation help.

Despite the constant trade rumors surrounding Burnes, the trade came as a surprise to many around baseball. After the Brewers gave Rhys Hoskins a two-year, $34 million contract last week, many viewed the signing as a declaration of sorts that Burnes was off the table -- at least until July.

“I think it all comes down to price for them,” an NL executive said of Milwaukee. “They don’t pass up an opportunity to move a guy if they get exactly what they want, so they must be really happy with the return. It is a little strange, but it’s also kind of how they do things.

“The Central might be tough, but if they have a couple of their younger guys take steps forward, they would still have a chance. They are good at developing pitchers and tend to get the best out of their guys. The interesting part will be watching how that all goes without [manager Craig] Counsell in the dugout.”

While several NL executives were happy to see Burnes take his talents to Baltimore -- “The big winners are the rest of the NL Central,” quipped one exec -- their AL counterparts didn’t share those sentiments.

“I wish he had stayed in the NL,” one AL exec said.