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  • Is Now the Right Time to Trade Corbin Burnes?


    Tim Muma

    It is rare to willingly get rid of one of the most dominant pitchers in MLB, who also won a Cy Young Award two seasons ago. However, the Milwaukee Brewers have to consider the option of trading Corbin Burnes now to maximize the return package of talent, especially if they aren't going to offer the right-hander a long-term contract.

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    GM Matt Arnold will have some tough decisions in the coming months and years, but nothing is more significant than determining how to handle Corbin Burnes' time with the Milwaukee Brewers. That could also be affected by what the Brewers decide to do with Brandon Woodruff. It isn't easy to see them keeping both or offering long-term deals before they become free agents in two seasons. Could they trade both? That would be a gamble, too. But let's look squarely at Burnes and his trade candidacy.

    The 2021 NL Cy Young has been phenomenal since the start of the 2020 season, which means a big payday is on the horizon. Some people need to appreciate how ridiculous Burnes has been in the last three years and how it will impact his salary.

    Corbin Burnes ranks first among MLB starters in these categories since 2020:

    • 2.60 ERA
    • 2.36 FIP
    • 0.96 WHIP
    • 11.83 K/9
    • 33.3 K% 
    • 27.1 K-BB%
    • 7.86 WPA (Win Probability Added)
    • 14.3 fWAR (FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement)

    Burnes makes a strong case for being the best pitcher in baseball right now. With two years of arbitration remaining, he would become a free agent after the 2024 season if he doesn't sign a contract extension. Those numbers for a starter who would hit free agency at 30 with mostly good health could generate a record contract. Burnes also tossed more than 200 innings last season while leading the NL with 243 strikeouts, meaning he isn't likely to decline soon. A quick look at recent starting pitcher contracts could legitimately net Burnes a contract for anywhere between five and eight years from $175-$275 million if a big market team is determined to land him. Check out the list below from Spotrac.com and you can see the huge deals for recent starting pitchers. 

    Spotrac.com


    Realistically, the Brewers are unlikely to invest that much in one player, especially with the way the Christian Yelich deal has gone thus far. Pitchers also carry more injury risk. If the organization doesn't want to lose Burnes to free agency without getting anything in return, this offseason could net them the most crucial haul for future success. The question is, can you get fair value back in a trade?

    For the Brewers to jettison Burnes elsewhere, they need at least a couple of players at the beginning of their MLB careers or on the cusp. Getting two players back who are under team control for five or six years and are ready to contribute now is essential to keep the club from dipping in performance. Then Milwaukee would need a couple of higher-level prospects with significant potential. Ideally, they're getting at least two starting pitchers in the deal and one impact bat. People might argue the return should include a top-20 MLB prospect and three more of the team's best 10 minor leaguers, but that can be subjective.

    It's going to come down to the right fit for a club that lacks top-tier starting pitching and has the means to sign Burns to a long-term contract. It would help if you also had a team that feels comfortable offensively or is willing to add offense via free agency. They would then feel good about swapping out a solid bat (and the other pieces) for a true ace that puts them over the top. The first two clubs that come to mind as examples are the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. Both teams want to push their franchises forward, and their farm systems were ranked sixth and first this past August.

    Texas has already shown a willingness to pay big bucks by giving Corey Seager and Marcus Semien mega-deals last offseason. The Rangers have six prospects in MLB Pipeline's top 100, including third baseman Josh Jung (#36) and right-handed pitchers Jack Leiter (#45), Owen White (#59), and Brock Porter (#89). Getting Jung and two of those hurlers gets them in the ballpark, then you figure out the fourth player. Texas finished fifth in runs scored (4.36 R/G) in the AL last season but 12th in ERA (4.22), so they would make a considerable jump up with Burnes. Rangers' fans in September were already pining for a rotation with Burnes at the top.

    As for the Orioles, they were only 10th in the AL in runs scored (4.16), although they would have an entire season of catcher Adley Rutschman and shortstop Gunnar Henderson to increase production in 2023 and beyond. Baltimore also has money to burn in free agency to acquire a big hitter for the middle of its lineup. Meanwhile, the O's 3.97 ERA ranked ninth in the AL; however, they had a 4.35 starting pitching ERA. They could use a stud arm up front to lead their young hurlers.

    Baltimore also has six of MLB's top-100 prospects, though Henderson (#2), right-handed pitcher Grayson Rodriguez (#4), and this year's number one overall draft pick, Jackson Holliday, are probably off limits. That leaves outfielder Colton Cowser (#40), infielder Jordan Westburg (#76), and left-handed pitcher DL Hall (#87) in play. Of course, Baltimore could also entice the Brewers with a Major Leaguer. Could outfielders Cedric Mullins or Anthony Santander be moved to acquire a starter like Burnes? It's possible because of the Orioles loaded farm system and available cash.

    No matter who the Brewers get in return for a potential Burnes trade, many in the fanbase will be upset - and there's nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, moving a player of Burnes' caliber at the right time for the best collection of young talent possible is often the ideal long-term option for continued, sustainable success.

    The most intriguing question around a Burnes trade might be, when is the best time to make it happen? Should the Brewers see how 2023 starts and trade him at the mid-season deadline if the club is floundering? It gives you another shot at the playoffs with your two aces (assuming Woodruff is still with the club). Do you wait until next offseason when he has just one year left on the contract and has slightly less value? You also risk injury or ineffectiveness curtailing his worth. That potential for injury and a possible dip in value is why many believe that if the Milwaukee Brewers are going to trade Corbin Burnes, this offseason is the time to strike. What do you think about dealing Burnes away, and who should they try to get back?

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    My answer is no, but then I know I am by myself with not trading anyone over the next two years and trying to actually win 90+ games each year.  Right now marginal wins are valuable, in three or four years when these prospects are ready, the Brewers may be struggling for that 75th win.  And this is what these trades are, expected wins today for expected future wins.  Right now there are only 7 or 8* teams trying to win in the NL. That is likely to change in the future as the Cubs and the Nationals are not going to sit on the sidelines forever.  So strike when you have the most to gain and when wins have the most meaning. In two years, you let everyone walk, get a bunch of draft picks, trade Peralta and Ashby (if he has value), trade some of the younger players coming up now (Wiemer if still on the Brewers would make sense given his age and Chourio coming up. Another option would be Mitchell) and go from there.

     

    *Well I think Colorado is also trying but in that special Colorado way which is panful to watch, so there is 9th team technically.

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    After what happened with the Hader trade if they move Burnes look for a full out player mutiny.  If they are crazy enough to do it put Yelich in the deal as the deal breaker and YES there is a team that would do the deal.  Also, don't count out Stearn's ending up with the Yankee's and not the Met's, that fan base is putting pressure on their GM.

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    I shop Burnes this offseason but I'm not trading him unless a team like the Orioles comes in hot. If someone offers me four global 100 guys I like that includes two close-to-MLB players and two pitchers, I pull the trigger.

    If someone offers me three global 100 prospects I really like, maybe I also trade him.

    Basically, I make and receive calls but unless someone comes with a truly serious offer, I focus on what Burnes can give the team in 2023 in reevaluate in July.

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    If the Orioles do declare that Rodriguez and Holliday are off limits, then they’re not getting Burnes, a top 3 (if not THE) top pitcher in baseball. It’s as simple as that. 
     

    I’m not trading Burnes just for the sake of trading him while he still has two years of control. He’s got a specific value, and a team is going to have to meet or exceed that value. Otherwise, let’s go run it back with perhaps the best 1-2 punch in baseball. 

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    Call it a hunch but I don’t think the Orioles would go all out to acquire Burnes. He’d likely be gone in two years and they would have had to trade some major prospects to get him. I’m hoping the Dodgers offers up a deal Arnold can’t refuse as they have both pitching and corner infield prospects that would be very enticing.

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    21 minutes ago, Brewcrew82 said:

    If the Orioles do declare that Rodriguez and Holliday are off limits, then they’re not getting Burnes, a top 3 (if not THE) top pitcher in baseball. It’s as simple as that. 

    *Orioles call about Burnes and take their best prospects off the table*

    Angry Tv Land GIF by Teachers on TV Land

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    13 minutes ago, wibadgers23 said:

    Call it a hunch but I don’t think the Orioles would go all out to acquire Burnes. He’d likely be gone in two years and they would have had to trade some major prospects to get him. I’m hoping the Dodgers offers up a deal Arnold can’t refuse as they have both pitching and corner infield prospects that would be very enticing.

    I think you're underestimating the payroll potential of Baltimore once they decide to become competitive. They can pretty easily carry a payroll similar to teams like Philadelphia (maybe just a step below but close) should they decide to do so.

    And given their competition and division, Orioles fans should throw a fit if the team doesn't do that. They suffered for a long time waiting for a competitive organization, they should demand ownership to start carrying a payroll commensurate with their market size.

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    40 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    I think you're underestimating the payroll potential of Baltimore once they decide to become competitive. They can pretty easily carry a payroll similar to teams like Philadelphia (maybe just a step below but close) should they decide to do so.

    And given their competition and division, Orioles fans should throw a fit if the team doesn't do that. They suffered for a long time waiting for a competitive organization, they should demand ownership to start carrying a payroll commensurate with their market size.

    Isn't Baltimore known to be very conservative when it comes to trading top prospects or was that a prior regime? 

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    4 minutes ago, wibadgers23 said:

    Isn't Baltimore known to be very conservative when it comes to trading top prospects or was that a prior regime? 

    Their latest regime is from the Astros. I think they took over around... 2016? Going from memory here so I could be off by a year or two. They haven't traded prospects because they've been aggressively building the farm until now.

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    Also, why on earth would the Brewers want Santander and/or Mullins? Like this team needs more outfielders, especially ones that are in their late 20s and are already arbitration-eligible. 

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    I would actually try to buyout the next three years for Burnes something like 3 years $60-80 million dollar range.  Also try to extend Woodruff with a similar offer.  I doubt the Brewers would ever receive fair value for either in a trade so might as well hang on and be a playoff team for a couple of more years.   

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    I don't know if the Brewers have even figured out whether they're a "soft rebuilds are necessary with our budget limitations" team or if they're a "try and be competitive ever year" team. There's no agreement on this site, either, and to me that seems like the biggest factor on whether folks say trade or keep.

    I'm in the "soft rebuild" camp and I think we'd have every ability to push for the playoffs next year even with Burnes gone. Trade from your strength, especially considering there's no need for a mid-budget team to have one or two guys in the bullpen who should be getting starts.

    Further, our OF prospects are speed guys, and speed is kinda negated if you're a low-ave/HR offense, so trading Burnes now is a great opportunity to get a better contact hitter or two in to better take advantage of that.

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    Tim Muma
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    29 minutes ago, Brewcrew82 said:

    Also, why on earth would the Brewers want Santander and/or Mullins? Like this team needs more outfielders, especially ones that are in their late 20s and are already arbitration-eligible. 

    Let's keep in mind that after the 2017 season, a majority of fans thought there was no reason to try to upgrade the outfield because they had Braun, Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips. That season, Santana had hit 30 HR with an .875 OPS. Broxton had 20 HR/21 SB and seen as a top defensive CF. Phillips was seen as a future everyday outfielder with a cannon arm, and in 98 PA had a .276/.351/.448/.799 slash line. They also had Lewis Brinson as their #1 prospect - another outfielder.

    When I suggested that November that the Brewers trade for Christian Yelich, I was roundly seen as insane. Not only did the Brewers trade for him, they also signed Cain to a big contract. The Brewers don't come within 1 game of the World Series in 2018 if they stood pat in the outfield...and who knows how the rest of the seasons went. Performance and potential are not always what they seem, nor are they linear.

    If the organization believes Mullins (yes, regressed last year, but 27 years old a season removed from a 30/30 season, .878 OPS) and 3 top BAL prospects puts them in a better position, they should do it. They could then trade Renfroe and/or one of the outfield prospects for other pieces they want/need. In the end it comes down to making the right decisions because not every prospect will pan out, and sometimes trading one is worth more than keeping him. I'm just saying...it's important to be open to any and all possibilities.

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    What I suspect is going to happen is they'll figure out the best trade offers for both Burnes and Woodruff, trade one and sign the other to an extension in the 5 year/$100 M range.

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    53 minutes ago, Hacksaw Jim Duggan said:

    I would actually try to buyout the next three years for Burnes something like 3 years $60-80 million dollar range.  Also try to extend Woodruff with a similar offer.  I doubt the Brewers would ever receive fair value for either in a trade so might as well hang on and be a playoff team for a couple of more years.   

    That's a huge overpay for either Burnes or Woodruff.  They each have two years of arbitration left and those years should total less than $30 million combined for both years for either one.

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    1 hour ago, Tim Muma said:

    Let's keep in mind that after the 2017 season, a majority of fans thought there was no reason to try to upgrade the outfield because they had Braun, Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips. That season, Santana had hit 30 HR with an .875 OPS. Broxton had 20 HR/21 SB and seen as a top defensive CF. Phillips was seen as a future everyday outfielder with a cannon arm, and in 98 PA had a .276/.351/.448/.799 slash line. They also had Lewis Brinson as their #1 prospect - another outfielder.

    When I suggested that November that the Brewers trade for Christian Yelich, I was roundly seen as insane. Not only did the Brewers trade for him, they also signed Cain to a big contract. The Brewers don't come within 1 game of the World Series in 2018 if they stood pat in the outfield...and who knows how the rest of the seasons went. Performance and potential are not always what they seem, nor are they linear.

    If the organization believes Mullins (yes, regressed last year, but 27 years old a season removed from a 30/30 season, .878 OPS) and 3 top BAL prospects puts them in a better position, they should do it. They could then trade Renfroe and/or one of the outfield prospects for other pieces they want/need. In the end it comes down to making the right decisions because not every prospect will pan out, and sometimes trading one is worth more than keeping him. I'm just saying...it's important to be open to any and all possibilities.

    This is an entirely different situation than in 2017-2018. That club was trying to transition to a contender and added Yelich and Cain to power that transition in light of a relative surplus of payroll space. This club, as presently constituted, is already a contender and is looking to continue its run of success in the long-term, yet also has to deal with a huge contingent of arbitration eligible players that is beginning to really push the envelope in terms of payroll. Mullins and Santander, while above average players, aren't needle movers contention-wise given that we would be parting with statistically the best pitcher in baseball to acquire them. And it's not like they would provide payroll relief either given that both are now arbitration eligible and will be getting more expensive by the year. Mullins, in particular, could be a real danger as he's going to get paid a lot due to his 2021 season, despite that season being a real statistical outlier relative to his career numbers and batted-ball metrics. I'm not even sure that Santander is a guaranteed upgrade over any of our current outfielders, given his atrocious defensive stats. You say that it comes down to making the "right decisions". Well, I can tell you right away that trading Burnes for a package headlined by/involving Mullins or Santander isn't the right decision and could really set this franchise back in the long-term.

    If we're going to trade an absolute premium of a talent such as Burnes with two whole years of control left, we're going to need to receive premium talent in return. So, start with Rodriguez or Holliday or proceed to hang up the phone as nobody else the Orioles could give us (other than Rutschman or Henderson) will make a trade of Burnes worth it imo. 

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    Tim Muma
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    11 minutes ago, Brewcrew82 said:

    This is an entirely different situation than in 2017-2018. That club was trying to transition to a contender and added Yelich and Cain to power that transition in light of a relative surplus of payroll space. This club, as presently constituted, is already a contender and is looking to continue its run of success in the long-term, yet also has to deal with a huge contingent of arbitration eligible players that is beginning to really push the envelope in terms of payroll. Mullins and Santander, while above average players, aren't needle movers contention-wise given that we would be parting with statistically the best pitcher in baseball to acquire them. And it's not like they would provide payroll relief either given that both are now arbitration eligible and will be getting more expensive by the year. Mullins, in particular, could be a real danger as he's going to get paid a lot due to his 2021 season, despite that season being a real statistical outlier relative to his career numbers and batted-ball metrics. I'm not even sure that Santander is a guaranteed upgrade over any of our current outfielders, given his atrocious defensive stats. You say that it comes down to making the "right decisions". Well, I can tell you right away that trading Burnes for a package headlined by/involving Mullins or Santander isn't the right decision and could really set this franchise back in the long-term.

    If we're going to trade an absolute premium of a talent such as Burnes with two whole years of control left, we're going to need to receive premium talent in return. So, start with Rodriguez or Holliday or proceed to hang up the phone as nobody else the Orioles could give us (other than Rutschman or Henderson) will make a trade of Burnes worth it imo. 

    There is risk to every move. Mullins certainly carries risk and I agree you want some of the BAL prospects who MIGHT be off limits. At the same time, the Brewers might feel their best option is a trade to BAL that seems light, because they also make a separate move that will be a better than thought return for one of their own prospects and/or Renfroe. There's no guarantee the Brewers get a "better deal" than Mullins and 3 prospects. Do they keep him for a year (or 1/2 year) and try again? Risk getting less value later because of injury, decline, fewer years left, etc.?

    I don't think they SHOULD necessarily trade him now or for a package from Baltimore. The Texas and Baltimore mentions were examples of teams that would make sense because they have the prospects, the hunger to push toward competing, and the money to extend Burnes. 

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    If Mullins and some of Baltimore's lesser prospects is the best deal out there, they should just keep Burnes.  That would be trading him just to trade him.

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    11 minutes ago, Tim Muma said:

    At the same time, the Brewers might feel their best option is a trade to BAL that seems light, because they also make a separate move that will be a better than thought return for one of their own prospects and/or Renfroe. There's no guarantee the Brewers get a "better deal" than Mullins and 3 prospects. Do they keep him for a year (or 1/2 year) and try again? Risk getting less value later because of injury, decline, fewer years left, etc.?

    This is so the wrong perspective and a potentially lethal one to this franchise were Arnold and Attanasio to adopt it. Accept a "light" return for Burnes, the best statistical pitcher in baseball over the past three years with two whole seasons of control, because MAYBE they might be able to scrounge out a little more value than expected in a trade of Renfroe, Ruiz, Mitchell, etc.??? Though I like Ruiz and, especially, Gasser, did we learn absolutely nothing from the Hader trade and this year's deadline?? 

    If the Brewers can't get a better deal than Mullins and some lesser prospects, then ride full-steam into next season with the best 1-2 rotation punch in baseball (assuming DeGrom does leave NY). 

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    Tim Muma
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    1 minute ago, Brewcrew82 said:

    This is so the wrong perspective and a potentially lethal one to this franchise were Arnold and Attanasio to adopt it. Accept a "light" return for Burnes, the best statistical pitcher in baseball over the past three years with two whole seasons of control, because MAYBE they might be able to scrounge out a little more value than expected in a trade of Renfroe, Ruiz, Mitchell, etc.??? Though I like Ruiz and, especially, Gasser, did we learn absolutely nothing from the Hader trade?? 

    If the Brewers can't get a better deal than Mullins and some lesser prospects, then ride full-steam into next season with the best 1-2 rotation punch in baseball (assuming DeGrom does leave NY). 

    That is fine if your opinion is that it would be the "wrong" perspective. Without actual names/players to discuss the value, it's impossible to make certain claims. I enjoy writing trade idea pieces, but I also acknowledge only the teams involved truly know what they feel is best, how they want to move forward, what risks are worth taking. 

    I'm one that will take proven MLB guys with team control, even with some risk and extra money. The Marlins take in the Yelich deal should be a warning, too. They thought they made out well. And Yelich wasn't an MVP at that point.

    As for the idea that it's an entirely different situation. Maybe...but you say they are a contender. You would be content with their outfield being strong enough offensively as a contender? I guess we differ a bit there, too. I like Frelick a lot. I'm not a Mitchell fan. I need to see/learn more about Ruiz. Wiemer feels average. Chourino - we know the upside - but he's not here this season. My point still remains, people were extremely excited for Santana, Broxton & Phillips being there to lead the charge for years after 2017. I liked Santana (but he fizzled out). I did NOT like Broxton and thought Phillips was a 4th outfielder...hence I wanted Yelich. Brewers went with Cain, too, because they weren't sold on any of the 3 every day and long term.

    In my world...I am intrigued by Westburg from Baltimore to play 3B. Maybe they can swing a deal with the Orioles that doesn't involve Burnes or Woodruff. IF they were to trade Burnes, I believe Texas would be far more likely, with the Dodgers always a possibility because of their player capital and willingness to go big. I'm also not opposed to keeping Burnes for now and seeing how 2023 plays out until the deadline and re-evaluate.

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    I could see Texas being very aggressive in a pursuit of Burnes. They spent a ton of money last offseason on offense and could obviously use some upgrades to their pitching staff. I know it’s ranked high, but I’m not super in love with their farm system. Jung is a good fit because he plays 3B but I’m not crazy about anyone else.

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    1 hour ago, Lajitas said:

    What I suspect is going to happen is they'll figure out the best trade offers for both Burnes and Woodruff, trade one and sign the other to an extension in the 5 year/$100 M range.

    I just don't think either will sign those deals.  Burnes is going to get a BIG payday if he doesn't fall off a cliff in the next 2 years, I mean a BIG payday!  There isn't a chance in hell he takes that offer.  I don't think we get Woodruff for less than 25 million per season either.

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    34 minutes ago, Sixtolezcano said:

    I would consider trading Burns to Baltimore for:

    Gunnar Henderson-SS

    Grayson Rodriguez-RHP

    DL Hall-LHP

    Baltimore laughs Arnold off the phone if he suggests that. 

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    6 minutes ago, Hopper said:

    I just don't think either will sign those deals.  Burnes is going to get a BIG payday if he doesn't fall off a cliff in the next 2 years, I mean a BIG payday!  There isn't a chance in hell he takes that offer.  I don't think we get Woodruff for less than 25 million per season either.

    There might be a remote chance to get 1-2 years of FA Woodruff if the Brewers really incentivize his remaining two years of arbitration.

    Burnes, nope. I don't see him accepting anything less than a long-term deal that goes well over $100m in free agent money.

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