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Mike Elias was clearly pleased about the Orioles’ acquisition of former Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes from the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night.
“It was a big trade, and I think a big addition and moment for our team,” the Orioles’ executive vice president/general manager said in a video conference call on Friday.
“Corbin Burnes is exactly what we needed. We were in a dogged pursuit of him the entire offseason. Obviously, there were other starting pitchers that we pursued, but it’s hard to have somebody higher than Corbin Burnes on your wish list.”
The Orioles sent left-hander DL Hall and shortstop Joey Ortiz and their Competitive Balance Round A pick to Milwaukee for Burnes, who will be a free agent after the season.
“Not only is a talent impact there, there’s also an innings track record that he provides,” Elias said. “Our staff is pretty young. Other than John Means these guys are in the forefront of their first few years in the major leagues. Having the experience, and I think somebody for the young guys to look up to and lean on who can help pick up the slack is going to be enormous.
“I expect him to really, really help, not just our team, but the starters on the pitching staff.”
The 29-year-old Burnes, who won the National League Cy Young Award in 2021, was 10-8 with a 3.39 earned-run average and 200 strikeouts in 193⅔ innings in 32 starts for the Brewers last season. The year before, Burnes led the NL with 243 strikeouts in 202 innings. In 2021, he struck out 234 in 167 innings, walking just 34 and posting a 2.43 ERA. In six seasons, Burnes was 45-27 with a 3.26 ERA.
“Initial reaction, just shocked,” Burnes said in a video conference call on Friday afternoon. “Being so close to spring training … got the call from the GM, and it sent off a flurry of calls after that. Excited to be a part of the Baltimore organization. Having won over 100 games last year, it’s a good young group. Lot of young guys who have come up and done well the last couple of years. Looking to put my mark and help those guys and do whatever I can to get to the World Series.
“They were an exciting team last year that was [seven] wins away from getting there.”
Burnes has been in the postseason three times with Milwaukee, and he’s hoping to make it four this year.
“I’ve been a part of winning seasons for the last several years now,” he said. “I know what it takes to get to the postseason on a regular basis. Last year what those guys showed is special, and it’s a very good group.”
Elias wasn’t certain the Brewers would trade Burnes, but the Orioles had players who could fit their roster.
“We have the firepower in our farm system to make these trades,” Elias said. “We had a major league-ready starting shortstop in Joey Oritz who we had other alternatives to on our roster, and I think that that probably put us at the top of the heap.”
Burnes joins Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, John Means and Grayson Rodriguez in the starting rotation, but Elias said he wants depth. Tyler Wells, Cole Irvin and perhaps others could provide depth.
“We’ve got spring training. Things are going to happen,” Elias said. “I hope they don’t, but things happen. We need as many starters as possible. We need as many good pitchers as possible. There’s plenty of room for everyone.
“Now I feel good about the quality and quantity of starter candidates that we’re going to bring into camp, and we’ll see how it shakes out. All of those guys are going to have huge roles and contributions to the season. We’ve got a long season ahead of us. It’s arduous, winning the American League East. We’re going to need each and every one of those guys to pitch well.”
Elias said that he’d been working on the trade since the end of the World Series in November, and despite the announced sale of the team this week, worked with outgoing Chairman and CEO John Angelos on the trade.
“Our partnership group has stuck to a plan and funded and supported the right investments at the right time through every stage of this,” Elias said. “John is our control person. I’ve worked and continue to work very, very closely with him on everything since I’ve been here. He and I worked on this trade, and it’s been brewing for months.”
Burnes has limited experience pitching against American League East teams and looks forward to the challenge.
“Everyone is always scared of change,” he said. “You don’t know what’s coming, so it can be both good and bad, depending on how you look at it. I look at it as a good thing.
“It’s teams that I have never faced before so you have that unknown of them facing you, you facing them, but for me, that’s exciting. It means I’ve got to do more homework. I’ve got to watch more video.”
Pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota on February 14th, and Elias will consider other moves.
“We’re still going to continue exploring opportunities,” Elias said. “We feel like that is a team that we’re very excited to bring into Sarasota as is.”
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