Calling it a “big moment for our team,” Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, via Zoom call with the media today, discussed the acquisition of right-hander Corbin Burnes from the Brewers.
Elias said trade talks with the Brewers have been ongoing since just after the World Series ended. He wasn’t sure if Milwaukee would actually deal the 2021 National League Cy Young Award winner. But the trade was finalized last night as the Orioles sent lefty DL Hall, infielder Joey Ortiz and the No. 34 pick in the 2024 MLB Draft to the Brewers get Burnes.
The 29-year-old three-time All-Star and 2022 NL strikeout leader went 10-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 32 starts in 2023. He had an ERA of 2.43 in winning the ’21 Cy Young and has a career 3.26 ERA and 1.055 WHIP.
Since the 2020 season, he has finished, in order, sixth, first, seventh and eighth in the Cy Young voting while pitching to an ERA of 2.86 in that span. That is an ERA+ of 146.
“This is a big trade and big moment for our team,” Elias told reporters. “Corbin Burnes is exactly what we needed. We were in a dogged pursuit of him the entire offseason.
“I think it’s a great trade for both sides. They are getting, not just young talent, but two players that are ready to plug-and-play and ready to fill big holes on their team. We are going to miss those guys, but it was a good exchange of needs and fits.
“We’re very excited to welcome Corbin to the organization. I talked to him on FaceTime yesterday and Brandon (Hyde) did as well. But I’m really looking forward to meeting him in person in Sarasota. I can tell he’s very excited and he knows we’ve got a chance to do something special here in 2024. And ultimately, this trade was about 2024.”
The Orioles, with spring training set to begin Feb. 15, may be about done with any moves that will impact their big league roster for now.
“We’re still going to continue exploring opportunities, but we feel like this is a team that we are very excited to bring into Sarasota as is,” added Elias.
Elias was asked if Burnes was his No. 1 trade target this winter.
“He was at the top of the board from a talent perspective,” he said.
A big add for the club, but also some talent they really liked heading out.
“We’re giving up a lot of long-term talent and also a couple of players that were going to contribute to the 2024 Orioles," Elias said. "So I mean, this is a risky move, but it lined up for both sides.
“We weren’t going to force it necessarily, but our wish list was a rotation upgrade and I certainly think that the Cy Young winner and with his body of work qualifies as that. We couldn’t have found a better upgrade and now we just have to go play the games.”
Elias was asked how the new incoming ownership group led by David Rubenstein impacted the completion of this deal.
“We’ve been talking about the trade since when the World Series ended," he said. "Our partnership group has stuck to a plan and funded and supported the right investments at the right time through every stage of this. That is not just on the field, not just draft picks, not just our international program or all the staffing we’ve done. It’s the free agent activity of the last few years and then a trade like this to try and get us over the hump. To me, this has just been a continuity of everything we’ve been doing. I’m not going to talk about the activity that is in the news right now, but I think it’s all part of the continuity and plan that has been above me since I’ve gotten here.”
Elias was asked if either the present or future ownership groups had to sign off on this deal.
“John (Angelos) is our control person,” he said. “I’ve worked and continue to work very, very closely with him on everything since I’ve been here, and he and I worked on this trade. It’s been brewing for months. The items in the news that have coincided with the timing, it’s not part and parcel of the trade. John and the rest of our partnership group have supported everything that we’ve done to rebuild the franchise and this is just another step in that, we hope.”
He added: “But on all fronts, there are a lot of things to be excited about here in Birdland right now. We’ve got everything going for us right now.”
But will this add be just a one-year rental with Burnes set to be a free agent at the end of the 2024 campaign?
“We would look at the likelihood of somebody bringing a comp pick if they go to free agency, but this isn’t something that he nor I nor (his agent) Scott Boras is thinking about right now," Elias said. "He’s thrilled he’s joining this great team. I know he’s going to love it here. We’ve got an energized fan base and an amazing roster. I know he’s going to enjoy it and I can’t wait to build a relationship with him."
Burnes, who has thrown 622 1/3 innings since the 2020 season with an 11.1 K rate in that span, posted an ERA of 2.71 and .187 average against in his last 14 starts of last season.
"Absolute horse," said Elias. "In addition to the pitches he is throwing and the strikeouts, it's the volume that he has demonstrated. The combination of those two things is just really special with this guy. He is extremely competitive and is a true No. 1 starter. ... It projects to be an enormous impact for our team. We've got a lot of excitement internally for our season, but I know that the fans are excited as well and they should be."
Elias feels the rotation is about set now heading into spring but added they could still look to add someone on a minor league deal: "But if this is the group of starting pitcher candidates that we have, it's good and it's deep and I do think that it would be enough to responsibly bring into camp and see where it goes from there."
Burnes will speak with the media late this afternoon and we'll have coverage on that later here, too.
Fujinami to the Mets: Another 2023 Oriole is officially leaving Birdland as free agent reliever Shintaro Fujinami has agreed to a deal with the Mets. Per the New York Post, it’s a one-year deal for $3.35 million with another $850,000 possible via incentives.
The Orioles acquired Fujinami from the Athletics on July 19 for minor league pitcher Easton Lucas. With the O’s, Fujinami went 2-0 with a 4.85 ERA in 30 games. He was left off the club’s AL Division Series roster.
The list of 2023 Birds now that have signed elsewhere includes Aaron Hicks with the Angels, Adam Frazier with the Royals, Austin Voth with the Mariners, Jack Flaherty with the Tigers, Jorge López with the Mets and Kyle Gibson with the Cardinals.