Why The Orioles Will Regret Acquiring Corbin Burnes

Last season the Baltimore Orioles established themselves as a mainstay in the AL pennant race with an electric young core that is just getting started after winning 101 games in 2023. The one weakness many pointed out with the Orioles squad was the lack of a legitimate ace to lead this young rotation through a full regular season and post-season. Last off-season when one of the game’s premier pitchers became available via trade, the O’s did what many experts expected and pounced. Without considering what they were giving up and the future implications of it, the Orioles made a deal to acquire Milwaukee Brewers ace and 2021 Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes on February 1st.

The deal looks great for Baltimore right now, as the three-time all-star carries a 2.56 ERA through 59.2 innings over 10 starts. He is one of the frontrunners to win his second Cy Young Award. While his services have been invaluable to the Orioles, they won’t last very long as he is set to hit free agency at the end of this season and unless the Orioles are willing to pay up, he will likely play elsewhere in 2025. This hurts even more because both prospects the Brewers received in return are already contributing at the big league level and will continue to in Milwaukee for the next seven seasons. While the baseball world looks at this deal as a massive win for the Orioles now, just a few years from now fans will be asking how the Brewers got away with this, and the Orioles will regret acquiring Corbin Burnes.

Why The Orioles Will Regret Their Biggest Off-season Acquisition

They Gave Up Legitimate Big Leaguers

To acquire a player like Corbin Burnes, it takes a massive haul and for the Orioles, it was no different. The O’s forfeited two 25-year-old prospects who have already made an impact at the big league level. They both also ranked highly as prospects, placing seventh and eighth in the Orioles’ system. However, the one already turning heads is eighth-ranked Joey Ortiz as the third baseman has become a pillar in the Brewers lineup and is producing like an all-star through his first 40 games this year.

Among players with at least 120 plate appearances, Ortiz ranks second among third basemen and 17th in all of baseball with a 161 wRC+. While he doesn’t stand out in any hard-hit metrics, he has still hit for power, slugging .538, good for second among third basemen. He also has a very good approach at the plate, a rare quality for young, inexperienced hitters. He rarely chases (just 21.2% of the time), he rarely misses (18% whiff rate), and he posts the 22nd-highest walk rate in all of baseball (12.9%). Those metrics to go along with a 16.1% strikeout rate make him an extremely tough out. While he’s been great this year, he obviously hasn’t matched the production of an ace pitcher like Burnes, but keep in mind the Brewers have this guy

The other half of the package was left-handed pitcher DL Hall, who struggled to start 2024 before landing on the injured list in late April. His 7.71 ERA so far certainly is not inspiring, but that was over just 16.1 innings and his fastball velocity was way down likely due to the injury. The hard-throwing lefty has always been a top prospect, since being drafted in the first round by the Orioles in 2017 he has ranked as high as 69th on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects ranking before making his debut in Baltimore in 2022. He is almost back from his injury and when he starts pitching with full health in Milwaukee, he will show the Orioles they were wrong to get rid of him, especially since rotation depth is still a concern in Baltimore.

Ortiz and Hall are already both impactful and affordable players, necessary commodities for winning teams. Both are only going to get better and both are under the Brewers’ control through the 2029 season. By then Corbin Burnes’ one year in Baltimore will be a distant memory and if the O’s are a couple of pieces away from a title, they’ll ask if one great season for a young team was really worth six seasons of two productive big leaguers.

They Aren’t In A Position To Sacrifice The Future

As impressive as this Orioles core is already, they are still just at the beginning of their competitive window. They have yet to win a playoff game and should be building for the next few seasons, not just 2024. The O’s were terrible for years as they went through a meticulous rebuild, drafting, and developing an affordable core capable of winning the World Series without one of the game’s highest payrolls. Finally, they have done that, assembling by far the best farm system in baseball which has become the best young core in baseball but that does not mean they have a reason to be in win-now mode.

The Orioles, as good as they are, are still in a state of building for the future as they still have yet to call up four of MLB Pipeline’s top 22 prospects including baseball’s consensus number one prospect Jackson Holliday. They still have depth in the farm system and players still maturing at the big league level, they have made one playoff appearance and have yet to win a game in the post-season. The Orioles of several seasons down the road will have a much better chance of winning the World Series than this 2024 roster, making it nonsensical to sacrifice the future for a player that will be gone before this competitive window even fully gets started.

Even with the trade they still have the prospect depth and talent to be legitimate title contenders for years to come, but injuries always happen and some top prospects don’t pan out so any added depth from more established young players is essential to successful rebuilds, and especially important for an Orioles team that lacks the resources to chase top free agents and run up the payroll. As affordable, productive, and talented young players with years of control, they were simply too important to the future to be traded for a rental. No matter how good the rental is, even a Cy Young candidate will not be there for the vast majority of the Orioles’ competitive run.

Until November it’s going to look like the Orioles made a fantastic trade that certainly improved the roster for the 2024 season, but once Burnes hits free agency, as he is expected to do, the Orioles and their fans will remember what they gave up to get him and realize it wasn’t worth it for just a single playoff run. Short of winning the World Series this year, which is not that likely, there is very little chance this deal ends up being remembered fondly by the fans in Baltimore. Six years down the road when Ortiz and Hall are still bringing wins to Milwaukee and Burnes is just a distant memory in Baltimore, this deal will be remembered as a blemish on an otherwise excellent front office.

Main Image: Reggie Hildred-USA TODAY Sports

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Paige Thomas Lewis

There’s no doubt that Joey Ortiz is a damn good ball player. But the Orioles are so deep in position players that Ortiz had little to no chance to make the big club for the foreseeable future. The Orioles are struggling to find a way to get Holliday, Mayo and Norby playing time in Baltimore. Plus, they have a stable of players at the AA level looking to to move up to triple-A. Last year the Orioles won 101 games. The consensus was if the Orioles wanted to go deeper in the playoffs, they needed to get a bonified ace. So, Mike Elias went out and got arguably the best ace in the game. It was a win-win for both Ortiz and the O’s. Ortiz immediately got his opportunity to shine at the Major League level and the O’s got their ace. And with the issues surrounding Bradish and Means to start the season, it’s a good thing the O’s did get Burns. As for D.L. Hall, between his injuries and inconsistency, I don’t know that the O’s lost much there. With the new ownership in place in Baltimore, that is committed to winning, there is no reason to think that the Orioles can’t resign Burns if they chose to. Mike Elias will have a much fatter wallet to work with than he has had in the past. I expect Elias will make another splash trade before the trade deadline, probably for a high end closer. This is no longer the tight-fisted organization who ranked near the bottom in payroll.


Ortiz and Hall weren’t playing a key role anytime soon with the O’s. It was a deal that you make 10 times out of 10.

Jason R

Sounds like a win-win trade… Where was Ortiz going to play? Gunnar, Westburg and Holliday will be the Orioles infield the next 5+ years.

Burnes has been elite
Ortiz and Hall are good players but were ultimately expendable

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