A few thoughts on Burnes trade

We entered the month of February exactly two weeks away from the Orioles’ first workout for pitchers and catchers. The most recent transaction was their minor league deal with first baseman-turned-pitcher Ronald Guzmán, two days after the minor league deal with outfielder Daniel Johnson. The last major league move was the trade for corner infielder Tyler Nevin on Jan. 22 that left the 40-man roster with 39 players.

Closer Craig Kimbrel was the undisputed champion of impact additions with his signing at the Winter Meetings to a contract that guarantees $13 million and includes a club option for 2025.

Time remained, but teams holding aces weren’t folding to the pressure to trade them.

And then, it happened.

The Orioles defied the predictions and acquired a starter who fit at the top of the rotation. Not a middle-to-back-end arm. A former Cy Young Award winner, a three-time All-Star and one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Corbin Burnes probably is a rental. He also might be the last piece of the championship puzzle.

The White Sox wanted the moon for Dylan Cease. The Brewers settled for DL Hall, Joey Ortiz and the 34th pick in the upcoming draft.

I’ve obviously had some time to think about it. (Please, don’t make a fuss.) My immediate reaction to the trade went as follows:

* How many other people were wrong to assume a No. 1 or 2 starter wasn’t happening?

* Is Ramón Urías now guaranteed to stay in a utility role?

* The Orioles didn’t have to relinquish a top five prospect.

* Maybe new ownership – oh yeah, there's new ownership coming in – will spend to keep Burnes off the free agent market.

* What took so long to complete this trade?

Focusing on the fifth part, the possibilities would include the Orioles’ reluctance to part with Hall, their reluctance to part with the Competitive Balance A pick, or Milwaukee’s attempts to pry another prospect from the Orioles.

Ortiz wasn’t untouchable. He always profiled as a trade chip based on the infield talent blocking him. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias expressed confidence during the offseason that Ortiz would play in the majors in 2024 and have a nice career – for somebody. He didn’t specify the Orioles.

I noticed it. Others had to, as well.

Don’t mistake this for the Orioles souring on Ortiz. Not at all. As I’ve written, he was viewed as the top fielding shortstop in an organization that also has Gunnar Henderson and Jackson Holliday. A plus-plus defender, not just plus. And he could have been a terrific utility player.

Gotta give up something to get something. Let it be a player from a stacked farm system who couldn’t find regular playing time in Baltimore.

That’s the Ortiz part. I’m predicting that Hall becomes Josh Hader. The Brewers could try him as a starter, but dominant late-inning relief is what I’m envisioning. And losing him for one year of Burnes could burn the Orioles if they don’t win a championship this season.

Burnes clearly intends to test free agency, with agent Scott Boras already prepping his Winter Meetings monologue. We don’t know what David Rubenstein is going to do in his early tenure as head of the ownership group. Plunge or dip his toe.

However it plays out, however long Burnes is in an Orioles uniform, the early reviews on the deal are quite favorable for the Orioles.

A scout from another organization texted this morning that it was “highway robbery.”

“Two years removed from Cy Young for two players and draft pick!!!!”

That’s four exclamation points, if you’re scoring at home.

That’s a rotation of Burnes, Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, John Means and probably Dean Kremer. That’s a bullpen strengthened if it includes Tyler Wells, though he could hop into the rotation when needed. A bullpen that won’t have to carry four left-handers. It’s probably down to Cionel Pérez, Danny Coulombe and Cole Irvin.

And this is an organization that kept Jackson Holliday, Samuel Basallo, Heston Kjerstad, Colton Cowser, Coby Mayo, Connor Norby and Enrique Bradfield Jr.

The initial full-squad workout is Feb. 20, with the exhibition opener four days later against the Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium.

The trucks rolled out of Baltimore on Tuesday to begin the 1,000-mile trek to Sarasota, stocked with 320 uniforms, 300 hats, 200 helmets, 800 cases of balls, 300 bats and 10 pitching machines. The complex already has plenty of mounds, so the Orioles kept theirs at Camden Yards.

The club is approaching its 15th season in Sarasota, which feels official after the trucks arrive early next week. I loved my years in Fort Lauderdale and got the most out of them, but I quickly grew attached to the new spring home. It just takes a little while after venturing outside my comfort zone.

(Nothing says baseball is here like that first trip to Publix and my annual sit down with an LA Fitness salesperson to negotiate a six-week membership. Last year required a second visit and a different rep.)

It looked like we’d double back to Bradish’s fourth-place finish in the American League Cy Young voting and Rodriguez’s strong second half and his ceiling as an ace, and wonder if that would be enough after the Rangers swept the Orioles in the Division Series.

Can Rodriguez, in his first full major league season, be a postseason stopper?

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said at the Birdland Caravan.

“I think if you ask anybody on this staff, they’re going to say the same thing. A lot of guys in this organization that are very capable of doing that. Just going out and competing. There’s a lot of guys in this room who will compete.”

“I think that, if you look at the rotation and the pieces that we have, I think that you have a really good rotation,” Wells said at the Caravan. “We look at ourselves and we hold ourselves to a high standard. I know I can speak for myself and I can speak for Bradish and I can speak for Dean and just how I’ve seen them approach it, as well, the uber-competitiveness. I’ll throw Grayson in there, as well, even though I haven’t gotten to see him as much. But over two seasons of playing with Dean and Bradish, I’ve seen that uber-competitiveness come out.

“I think for all of us, we hold ourselves to such a high standard that that’s what’s made all of us pretty successful in that starting role."

Feelings obviously weren’t hurt among Orioles pitchers who read and heard about the team’s “need” for a frontline starter, but they got one anyway.

OK, that’s it from me for a while. Had to chime in here.

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