MLB Hot Stove Lowdown: Orioles acquire Corbin Burnes in epic trade with Brewers
For all intents and purposes, the offseason has been a bit of a dud, especially from a trade standpoint. While it is hard to forget that Juan Soto was traded to the Yankees, the Brewers trading their long-time ace Thursday night was certainly more exciting from a baseball fan standpoint. The Orioles seem to be going for it all while the Brewers received two intriguing prospects that will certainly help them out this season. Not only that, we had the Blue Jays add a reliable, yet oft-injured, hitter to their lineup and the reigning World Series champions could be without their star shortstop to begin the season. What a week! Let’s dig in.
Orioles and Brewers shock the world with monumental trade
The Orioles finally did the thing baseball fans have been waiting for. They got their ace. Early Thursday evening, news began trickling out that the Orioles were in trade talks for Brewers ace Corbin Burnes. The rest of the deal quickly materialized before the team made it official. The Orioles acquired right-hander Corbin Burnes in exchange for left-hander DL Hall, infielder Joey Ortiz, and Baltimore’s 2024 Competitive Balance Round A draft pick (34th overall). On the surface, the deal seems a bit light for one of the best pitchers in baseball. However, Burnes will be a free agent at the end of the season, and he has made it known that he wishes to test the free agent waters, so it appears that this will be a one-year rental for the right-hander.
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Both Hall and Ortiz were recently ranked in the top 10 of the Orioles system by Baseball America, but it is still odd that the Brewers decided now is a good time to trade Burnes. They recently signed arguably the best remaining free agent first baseman, Rhys Hoskins, and were poised to go toe-to-toe with the Cardinals, Cubs, and Reds for the NL Central crown. Now? It seems like they took a step back for the 2024 season. Let’s just say if I had Burnes on an expiring contract in a dynasty league, I still would want a little bit more than what the Brewers received on Thursday. Maybe that is why I’m just a fantasy baseball manager, not a real-life general manager.
From a redraft standpoint, it is hard to say that this move diminishes Burnes’ value. He moves to a more pitcher-friendly park in Camden Yards, a fact that still boggles my mind. Before the 2022 season, the Orioles moved their left field fence as much as 30 feet back while also raising it from seven feet to twelve feet. According to Statcast prior to the wall change, Camden Yards had a 105 overall ballpark factor with a 124 factor for homers, which was only behind Great American Ballpark. Last year, Camden Yards had a 96 overall ballpark factor with a 91 factor for homers. To give you some perspective, American Family Field had a 107 factor for homers. Statcast also has a fun stat that calculates how many more or fewer homers a pitcher would give up if he pitched in a certain ballpark all season. They estimated that Burnes would have given up seven fewer homers if he pitched in Camden as opposed to all the parks he pitched in last season. That is rather significant.
Burnes’ stuff backed up last season, and the move to a much friendlier park could help soften the slight decline we saw for the 29-year-old. The right-hander saw a slight dip in velocity at the beginning of the season before it rebounded about half a tick as the weather warmed up. He posted a 2.71 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 28.6% strikeout rate in the second half, which really helped boost his overall stat line. Not only will a change in scenery help boost his value but he is also moving to a much better team. Even with this trade, the Orioles still have the best minor league system in baseball, and many of their top prospects are on the cusp of making their debuts. Burnes has never won more than 12 games in a season, which seems low considering how great of a starter he is. The Brewers’ biggest bugaboo has been their lack of offense, which is surely something the Orioles are not lacking. He could easily surpass a dozen wins this season. Over the last month in Draft Champions leagues, Burnes is the third pitcher off the board, excluding Shohei Ohtani, of course, and has an ADP of 23.37. While it seems unlikely that Burnes will overtake Spencer Strider or Gerrit Cole, I could see him moving up a few spots overall.
From a current-year standpoint, I think the Brewers took a step back, but DL Hall and Joey Ortiz are fine players. Milwaukee reportedly is planning on allowing Hall to move back into a starter role, and with the way they have developed pitching over the years, it could be a great move. Hall missed most of the season with a back injury, which caused him to lose zip on his outstanding fastball, and he spent most of the summer rehabbing to regain strength and velocity. The lefty has an outstanding four-pitch mix, and more time away from his back injury could pay huge dividends. If the Brewers ultimately decide that Hall is a lights-out reliever, Robert Gasser and Aaron Ashby could pitch a significant number of innings for the Brew Crew. Gasser, who the Brewers got back in the Josh Hader trade, struck out 166 batters at Triple-A Nashville and finished with a 3.79 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. While he doesn’t live up to his surname, his fastball sits in the low 90s, his pitchability and extensive pitch mix could do him well in the majors. Ashby was a trendy fantasy draft pick a few seasons ago but missed most of 2023 after recovering from shoulder surgery. Earlier this offseason, Brewers general manager Matt Arnold told reporters that Ashby’s velocity had been trending in the right direction, which is great news to hear. However, until we see how things shake out this spring, he is only a speculative pick in regular 5x5 leagues right now.
Ortiz is a slick defender, and he will likely compete with Andrew Monasterio for everyday reps at third base. The 24-year-old burst onto the scene during the 2022 campaign, slashing .284/.349/.477 with 19 homers and eight stolen bases across 600 plate appearances. While the slash line is certainly enticing, the lack of power and speed put him into the “better in real life " category for me. This move also seems to block the trendy Tyler Black from a job. While the Brewers could continue to make moves, Black’s path to the majors isn’t as easy as it seemed going into the offseason.
Not to be forgotten, but the Brewers also received the Orioles’ 34th overall pick in this summer’s draft. They now have four picks in the top 70, including a first-round pick (No. 16), a Competitive Balance pick A (No. 34), a second-round pick (No. 58), and a Competitive Balance B pick (No. 68). While it remains to be seen who the Brewers draft this summer with Baltimore’s pick, it is fun looking back at some past trades that involved trading of a draft pick. In 2015, the Braves traded Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr for Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quinton, Matt Wisler, Jordan Paroubeck, and the 41st pick, which ended up being All-Star third baseman Austin Riley. The Braves also acquired a draft pick when they traded outfielder Drew Waters to the Royals. They selected right-hander JR Ritchie, currently ranked in the Braves’ top five prospects.
All in all, this is a fun trade, and the Orioles fan base must be on cloud nine. It was reported earlier in the week that the Angelos family agreed to sell the team to David Rubenstein for $1.725 billion. Rubenstein leads an investment group with multiple people, including Orioles legend Cal Ripken, Jr. The dust had barely settled on that news before the Orioles swung this trade with Milwaukee. Quite an exciting couple of days! The Brewers also did well in receiving two, possibly three, top prospects for a player who surely wouldn’t have signed a long-term deal with them this winter.
Jays turn to Justin Turner
Justin Turner has a new home but is staying in the AL East after he and the Blue Jays agreed to a one-year deal this week. Turner will earn $13 million, but he can earn up to $1.5 million in incentives, mostly connected to how many plate appearances he gets in 2024. Turner, who turned 39 years old in November, has been a fantasy mainstay since he joined the Dodgers in 2014. Since moving to Los Angeles, the third baseman has hit .293/.371/.486 with 179 homers, just a 15.6% strikeout rate, and a robust 9.3% walk rate. Last year with the Red Sox, he managed to stay on the field and amassed 626 plate appearances, the most he has had since the 2016 campaign. With the new venue, Turner changed his batted ball mix, began pulling the ball more, and used the Green Monster to his advantage. With the move up north, he will likely fill in as the Blue Jays’ designated hitter but could spell Cavan Biggio or Isiah Kiner-Falefa at third base when needed.
Historically, Turner’s most significant downside has been his inability to stay on the field. Even with the 626 plate appearances with the Red Sox last season, he was playing hurt in the second half. He bruised his heel on July 31st in a game against the Mariners, initially costing him three games, but the injury lingered for the remainder of the season. The Blue Jays are making a $13 million bet that the move off the diamond will help him stay on the field. Toronto has been rumored to be in the running for J.D. Martinez and Jorge Soler, and it remains to be seen if this move precludes those transactions from happening. In January, Turner was being taken as the 25th first baseman, right between AL East brethren Ryan Mountcastle and Anthony Rizzo. Now that the veteran has a home, his cost will surely rise, but he is still an excellent selection for a CI role for fantasy managers this draft season.
Corey Seager undergoes surgery
Rangers superstar shortstop Corey Seager underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia on Tuesday, but he could be ready for Opening Day. Seager reportedly suffered the injury during the playoffs and hoped the time off would help him recover. Still, after he began ramping back up, it was evident that an intervention was needed. Seager is coming off a career year where the 29-year-old hit .327/.390/.623 with 33 home runs and 96 RBIs and finished second in the AL MVP award behind Shohei Ohtani. That could be counted as a win, no? Rangers manager Chris Young said that the team doesn’t expect the injury to impact much, if any, of the 2024 campaign, but he didn’t want to put his name in the Opening Day lineup in pen.
If Seager does miss time, it will likely be Ezequiel Duran or Josh H. Smith who will see the lion’s share of playing time at shortstop. Over at the NFBC, there have been two Gladiator drafts since news broke of Seager’s surgery, and he had an ADP of 34 between the two leagues. A week earlier, the All-Star shortstop had an ADP of 18.50 in two Gladiator leagues, so about a round drop in price. His ADP will likely hover around the 34th pick until we hear news on his recovery this spring.
MLB Quick Hits: Adalberto Mondesi is drawing some interest from the Marlins… Diamondbacks designated RHP Collin Snider for assignment… Yankees signed OF Greg Allen to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Mets signed INF/OF José Rondón to a minor league contract… Mariners acquired INF/OF Samad Taylor from the Royals for a player to be named later or cash considerations… Guardians Signed C Dom Nuñez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Guardians signed LHP Anthony Banda to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Blue Jays sent C Brian Serven outright to Triple-A Buffalo… Padres have expressed interest in free agent right-hander Michael Lorenzen… Mariners signed INF/OF Nick Solak to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Orioles signed LHP Andrew Suárez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Mets designated C Tyler Heineman for assignment… Marlins signed INF Jonathan Gusman to a minor league contract… Joe Smith announced his retirement on Wednesday… Pirates signed RHP Wily Peralta to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Padres and Wandy Peralta have agreed to a four-year, $16.5 million contract… Pirates designated OF Canaan Smith-Njigba for assignment… Cardinals have had extensive talks with free agent right-hander Ryan Brasier… Red Sox designated RHP Zack Weiss for assignment… Red Sox claimed INF/OF Romy Gonzalez off waivers from the White Sox… Astros acquired 1B/OF Trey Cabbage from the Angels for RHP Carlos Espinosa… Astros designated RHP Declan Cronin for assignment… Guardians signed RHP Tyler Zuber to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Tigers signed RHP Joel Peguero to a minor league contract… Nationals signed RHP Robert Gsellman to a minor league contract with an invitation for spring training… Giants re-signed RHP Cody Stashak to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Nationals OF Stone Garrett (fractured fibula) just started hitting and running recently, jeopardizing his chances of playing Opening Day… The Blue Jays have turned down trade inquiries about RHP Alek Manoah and expect him to be in their rotation in 2024… Red Sox signed INF Joe Dunand to a minor league contract… Diamondbacks signed LHP Brandon Hughes to a minor league contract… Nationals signed LHP Richard Bleier to a minor league contract… Angels signed C Caleb Hamilton to a minor league deal… Jazz Chisholm Jr. lost his arbitration case with the Marlins and will make $2.625 million this season… Cubs designated RHP Michael Rucker for assignment… Athletics sent LHP Francisco Pérez outright to Triple-A Las Vegas… The Cardinals are signing free agent Keynan Middleton.