Orioles add the ace they badly needed - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Orioles add the ace they badly needed

Photo Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

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Barely 24 hours after the sale of the Orioles was announced, the team acquired a top-shelf starter, something they’d been searching for all offseason.

With just 13 days before pitchers and catchers are due to report to Sarasota, the Orioles traded for Corbin Burnes, who’s been an All-Star the past three seasons and won the National League Cy Young award in 2021.

In six seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, Burnes was 45-27 with a 3.26 earned-run average, and though he has just one season before free agency, he’ll fit nicely into the Orioles’ starting rotation.

Burnes threw 193 2/3 innings last season, and in 2022, pitched 202 innings, figures that no incumbent Orioles starter has approached. His career WHIP is 1.055, and he’s allowed under seven hits per nine innings and has struck out more than four times the number of batters he’s walked. He’s struck out 11 batters per nine innings and walked just 2.6 batters per nine.

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The Orioles have six legitimate starters. Burnes joins Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, John Means, Grayson Rodriguez and Tyler Wells, though Wells could see heavy action in the bullpen.

Burnes and the Brewers agreed on a one-year, $15.637 million deal to avoid arbitration. Add that to Cot’s Contract’s $81 million, and the Orioles’ 2024 payroll rises to nearly $97 million. Instead of the 28th highest payroll in baseball, they’d pass Cincinnati, Tampa Bay and Miami for the 25th highest. Cleveland’s $98 million estimated payroll is 24th.

The cost for a year of Burnes, who recently changed agents and is now with Scott Boras, was left-hander DL Hall, infielder Joey Ortiz and the Orioles’ Competitive Balance Round A pick, the 34th overall.

Hall had struggled with injuries throughout his career, and while the Orioles had always wanted him to start, only the first game of his 29 major league appearances was as a starter. According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, Milwaukee is looking at Hall as a starter.

As talented as Ortiz was, the Orioles remain flush with infielders, and they kept veterans Jorge Mateo and Ramón Urías as insurance in case they had to part with him. They also acquired corner infielder Tyler Nevin as insurance.

Ortiz played only 15 games with the Orioles last season, none in the second half, and with Gunnar Henderson, Jackson Holliday and Jordan Westburg, he was unlikely to start regularly for the team.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias didn’t have to part with outfielders Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad or Westburg to get a No. 1 starter, and while he covets draft choices, the team still has the 22nd and 32nd picks in July’s draft. The 32nd pick was received for Gunnar Henderson winning Rookie of the Year.

If the Orioles make Burnes a qualifying offer next offseason and he signs elsewhere for at least $50 million, they’ll receive a compensation draft pick after the first round in 2025.

With the deal, the Orioles 40-man roster is at 38, and while they could still add another reliever to replace Hall, some of the other pitchers on the 40-man staff, Keegan Akin, Bryan Baker, Jonathan Heasley, Cole Irvin, Nick Vespi, Jacob Webb and Bruce Zimmermann could see their chances of making the Opening Day roster increase. They also added non-roster left-hander Andrew Suárez this week.

There aren’t many quality free agent relievers left on the market, but it’s not inconceivable that with roster space, they may sign another.

During the Winter Meetings, the Orioles signed closer Craig Kimbrel to replace the injured Félix Bautista, and now they’ve got a number one starter as spring training nears.

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