In blockbuster trade, O's acquire Burnes from Brewers

February 2nd, 2024

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles’ search for a frontline starter is complete. They have their new ace for the 2024 season: .

On Thursday night, Baltimore swung a blockbuster deal, acquiring the right-handed Burnes in a trade with Milwaukee. In return, the O’s sent infielder (MLB Pipeline’s No. 63 overall prospect), left-hander and a 2024 Competitive Balance Round A Draft pick to the Crew.


BAL receives: RHP Corbin Burnes
MIL receives: INF Joey Ortiz (MLB Pipeline’s No. 63 prospect), LHP DL Hall, 2024 Competitive Balance Round A pick (No. 34 overall)

During last week’s Birdland Caravan, Orioles general manager Mike Elias made it clear his focus remained on acquiring a starter to boost his club’s rotation, a goal he previously stated at both the GM Meetings in November and the Winter Meetings in December. But he said he wasn’t going to make a move unless it was “the right deal, the right fit, the right trade.”

The trade for Burnes seems to check all of those boxes. One of MLB’s premier starters is coming to Baltimore, and the O’s didn’t need to deplete their top-ranked farm system to make it happen.

Burnes, who is entering the final year of his contract in 2024, has been an anchor of the Brewers’ rotation since becoming a full-time starter in '20. The 29-year-old is a former National League Cy Young Award winner, receiving the honor in 2021, when he led the NL with a 2.43 ERA.

During his six-year big league career, Burnes has posted a 3.26 ERA in 167 games (106 starts) and earned three All-Star selections (‘21, ‘22 and ‘23). Last year, he went 10-8 with a 3.39 ERA and an NL-best 1.07 WHIP in 193 2/3 innings across 32 starts. And he was especially strong after the All-Star break, pitching to a 2.71 ERA in 14 second-half starts.

In 2022, Burnes tossed a career-high 202 innings and led the NL with 243 strikeouts. The righty has K’d at least 200 batters in each of the past three seasons.

Only three pitchers in Orioles history (since 1954) have registered 200-plus strikeouts in a season: Erik Bedard (221 in 2007), Mike Mussina (218 in 1997, 210 in 2000 and 204 in '96) and Dave McNally (202 in ‘68). So if Burnes stays healthy in ‘24, he could make his mark on the team’s record book.

Burnes immediately slots into the top of Baltimore’s rotation and could start Opening Day on March 28, when the defending American League East champion Orioles will host the Angels at Camden Yards.

Here’s a look at how the O’s rotation could line up at the start of the season:

  1. RHP Corbin Burnes
  2. RHP Kyle Bradish
  3. RHP Grayson Rodriguez
  4. LHP John Means
  5. RHP Dean Kremer

Right-hander Tyler Wells and lefty Cole Irvin will also be in the starting mix, but they’d have to earn a spot during Spring Training. It’s now much more likely that both will pitch out of Baltimore’s bullpen.

The Orioles didn’t have room in their infield for Ortiz due to the logjam of position-player talent in their top-ranked farm system. His path to the big leagues was blocked, which is why Ortiz played only 15 games in his first stint in MLB last season.

Hall, a 2017 first-round Draft pick who has experience both starting and relieving, owns a 4.36 ERA in 29 big league games (one start) over the past two seasons.

After the trade, Baltimore still has five Top 100 prospects, all of whom rank among the top 32. The group is headlined by shortstop Jackson Holliday, who ranks No. 1 overall.

Ortiz and Hall could both have bright futures. However, the Orioles are in win-now mode coming off a 101-61 season, and the addition of Burnes boosts their odds of having repeat success in 2024 -- and possibly even more.

Burnes could serve as a needed force in October for Baltimore, which ended a seven-year postseason drought last season. In the 2023 AL Division Series, Orioles starters allowed 13 earned runs in eight innings as the team got swept in three games by the eventual World Series champion Rangers.

That may not be an issue for the O’s come this October. Burnes owns a 2.84 ERA in 19 career postseason innings and has made a postseason start for Milwaukee in two of the past three seasons, so he’s familiar with pitching on a big stage.