Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias disagreed when a reporter suggested yesterday that his acquisition of ace pitcher Corbin Burnes from the Brewers may represent a shift in the O's organization.
Where once the O’s seemed reluctant to part with prospects, this time they traded two of them and a draft pick to get the 2021 National League Cy Young Award winner.
“I don’t see it that way whatsoever,” said Elias. “The methods that we have applied to rebuild the team, are being applied with all our decision making in baseball operations. The whole time, even when our team was losing a lot of games, I was talking about making decisions oriented toward enhancing our playoff possibilities. And at that time, our playoff possibilities were in the future, and now we’ve won the AL East. That front loads a lot of stuff into the present, but we’re still going to keep an eye on the future to keep the organization healthy.
“The Brewers have a good team, too, and they decided this was a trade they wanted to do. It made sense for them and is going to help their team in a different way. We’re trying to make good quality moves which give us good chances to do what we want to do."
And to be fair, Elias did trade prospects last year, once before the year to add Cole Irvin and at the trade deadline to get Jack Flaherty. It's just this time he got the most talented of that group and a pitcher to front his rotation with massive credentials.
So does that mean this is really liftoff now?
“When I made that comment after the 2022 trade deadline, I was talking about the team being good," Elias said. "And if you look at our record since then, we won 100 games and the AL East and I feel like the team held up their end of the bargain on that. It’s about the wins.”
When Elias was with Houston in 2017, they traded that August for Justin Verlander. He pitched great down the stretch as the Astros won the World Series. That title may have an asterisk in the minds of some, but the point is, can a similar acquisition lead to lightning striking twice?
“That is the hope,” said Elias. “We’ve got to get to the postseason and there are a lot of innings to be thrown before we get there. It’s certainly not a necessity that you have a Cy Young-caliber ace at the top of your staff, but it sure is nice.
“I expect that, not only will he impact our team when he is out there pitching, but I think his presence is going to radiate out to the rest of the staff in terms of picking up workload and the the leadership component that we expect him to provide.
“Not only is there a talent impact there, but there is also an innings track record that he provides. He kind of simultaneously checks both of those boxes. And our staff is pretty young. Having that experience for young guys to look up to and lean on is going to be enormous.”
Burnes said the cutter looks real good: The pitch that Burnes throws the most – 55 percent of the time with four others combining to total the other 45 percent – is a cut fastball. A pitch that averages 94.4 mph and one that batters hit just .209 against last year.
The bad news here for batters this year is Burnes told the media on an Zoom call Friday that his cutter is looking really, really good right now in his bullpens.
“Ever since I started throwing this offseason, the cutter has been in a better spot since last year, weirdly enough," he said. "I don’t know if some of the stuff we’ve done mechanically or the weight room this offseason has put me in a better position to throw the baseball.
"From every indication with bullpens to this point, it’s been positive and stuff has looked a lot better. Got to the point where we actually started to work on a couple of new things. Which usually doesn’t take place until later in camp. At the point now that I can work on things, show a new pitch here or there. For me, that is a huge positive, I have so many weeks to work on it that it could be a viable option to use in games. That is exciting."
Burnes told reporters he will bring a lot of emotion to his outings and he gets satisfaction from doing well on those days when he might not have his best stuff
When he gets to Sarasota, he will be joining an organization now driven by data, technology and analytics. He said he embraces that, to a point.
“The analytics has gone crazy in the game," he said. "When I came up in ’18, it was kind of there a little bit. Really throughout the years, it has gotten bigger and it’s something you have to have as a tool. I use them a lot in the offseason and spring training, use the TrackMan and the analytics to kind of shape pitches and get a good base under me.
“But once I get in season, I’m a kind of guy that I like to stay away from a lot of the analytics. I have found some success with what I’ve done in the big leagues and so for me, if everything is rolling smooth, I’m going to stick to my routines and do what I do best. If we hit a snag in the road, then I’ll kind of be open for that.
“Do I think it’s a great tool to have? Yes. Which is why I use it so much in the offseason and when I need it in-season. So it’s not something I completely push out of the way. It is relevant in today’s game."
Burnes told reporters that he has a son that will soon turn two and that he enjoys being a family man and will work hard also to be a part of the Baltimore community.
“Family is very important to me," he said. "I’m married and have a two-year-old, actually he turns two next week. We’ll do our best to connect with the community. Get out in the community and do things. We’re excited to be in Baltimore and hopefully the fans of Baltimore are excited to have us."