Major League Baseball
With Corbin Burnes addition, are Orioles now AL favorites?
Major League Baseball

With Corbin Burnes addition, are Orioles now AL favorites?

Updated Feb. 2, 2024 9:02 a.m. ET

Orioles general manager Mike Elias preached patience. The last 24 hours have been worth the wait. 

While Wednesday brought optimism for the future in Baltimore, with the Angelos family announcing it has agreed to sell a controlling stake in the club, Thursday solidified the present for an Orioles team that was already among the American League's top contenders. 

After riding Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and an elite crop of young players to a 101-win season, all the Orioles needed was a rotation headliner. In Corbin Burnes, they now have their ace.  

To acquire the 2021 Cy Young Award winner, the Orioles sent Joey Ortiz — a top-100 infield prospect who was blocked by a bevy of Baltimore phenoms in Henderson, Jordan Westburg and No. 1 prospect Jackson Holliday — and DL Hall, a 2017 first-round pick who pitched out of Baltimore's bullpen last year but possesses the stuff to eventually help a major-league rotation, to the Brewers along with a competitive balance pick. 


That the O's were able to pull this off without dealing top prospects Holliday, Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad or Coby Mayo — all of whom could impact the big-league club at some point this season — makes this a dazzling success. 

No team was better suited to make this move than the Orioles, who had more top infield prospects on the way than spots available on their 26-man roster. They had been quiet this winter, but their robust group of position-player prospects always made them the perfect match for a team willing to part with an elite rental. 

Burnes will lead a Baltimore rotation that already includes two of last year's best second-half performers in Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez, who pitched to ERAs of 2.34 and 2.58, respectively, after the All-Star break. John Means, Dean Kremer and Tyler Wells provide plenty of enviable depth behind that top trio. 

While the move should position the Orioles as favorites in the AL East — and perhaps the entire American League — it also puts into question the Brewers' short-term goals.

Both Hall and Ortiz, who hit .321 at Triple-A Norfolk last year, offer high upside and should help quickly. But dealing one of the top starters in the game has to be tough to stomach for Milwaukee fans. The Brewers' acquisition of Rhys Hoskins injected the kind of power that would be needed to defend their NL Central title. Trading Burnes undermines that cause. With Burnes and Brandon Woodruff gone, one of the most formidable rotations in baseball has been dismantled. With Ortiz now in the mix, one also has to wonder how long Willy Adames is wearing a Brewers uniform. 

The move signals a look toward the future in Milwaukee. In Baltimore, there's no debate: This is about winning now. 

Orioles' holiday wishlist: extend Adley Rutschman & Gunnar Henderson

Burnes enters a contract year coming off his third straight All-Star season. While his ability to miss bats dipped slightly last season, he still finished the year with a 3.39 ERA in 193 innings. By FanGraphs WAR, he has been the second-best pitcher in baseball since 2020. He remains among the most formidable arms in the game, the kind of elite talent who can make the difference between contender and champion.

Despite a strong second half last year, Baltimore's starting pitchers amassed a 4.14 ERA on the season, a total that was more serviceable than spectacular. Rodriguez's late-season surge brought optimism for October, but he couldn't escape the second inning in Game 2 of the American League Division Series. The Rangers bombarded the rookie for five runs in the frame, then did the same to Kramer in Game 3 to sweep the series. It became evident the Orioles needed one more workhorse to put them over the top. 

Three months into the offseason, but just one day after the franchise's sale was formally announced, Baltimore executed the blockbuster transaction it so badly needed.

While Burnes might only help the club in 2024, the sale of the Orioles to an ownership group led by billionaire David Rubenstein could provide the willingness to keep him beyond this year. That, however, is for another day. 

This is a week to rejoice in Baltimore. The future is bright. The present just got a lot brighter.

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and MLB as a whole for FOX Sports. He previously was the Dodgers' editor of digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner. 


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