The Milwaukee Brewers sit atop the NL Central standings with the MLB schedule headed into June. However, one baseball insider believes starting pitcher Corbin Burnes might not be on the roster by August.
Despite being without Brandon Woodruff and Aaron Ashby, Milwaukee sits atop its division with a multi-game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. In one of the weakest divisions in baseball, the Brewers would seemingly have a realistic shot of winning the NL Central and hosting a playoff series. However, some around baseball believe that won’t last.
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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic recently named Burnes as the pitcher he believes will most likely be moved at the MLB trade deadline.
- Corbin Burnes contract: $10.01M salary (2023), arbitration-eligible (’24), ’25 free agent
Rosenthal believes the Cardinals have a strong chance of pushing Milwaukee out of first place by July. If the Brewers lose the No. 3 seed in the MLB playoff picture, they’ll face an uphill climb to earn one of the three wild card spots in the National League.
Milwaukee’s recent history also plays a part in Rosenthal’s projection. The Brewers traded All-Star close Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres amid a playoff race because they didn’t want to make him one of the highest-paid closers in baseball. A year later, following a rift with Burnes, the same could happen with the Brewers’ ace.
With 1.5 seasons remaining of contractual control, the best time for Milwaukee to maximize the return in a trade is to move him now. It becomes even more likely if the Brewers want to avoid going to arbitration with him for a third time, when it would cost significantly more to pay him.
Identifying 3 best landing spots for a Corbin Burnes trade
If the Brewers entertain trading Burnes, there will be significant interest around the league. Among the projected sellers this summer – Oakland Athletics, Kansas City Royals, Colorado Rockies, Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds – a majority don’t have quality pitching.
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The downside for Milwaukee is that Burnes is struggling through the first two months of the season. Through his first 10 starts, Burnes holds a 3.97 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP and his strikeout rate has fallen by nearly 10 percent compared to last season (30.5% K-rate).
- Corbin Burnes stats (2023): 3.97 ERA, 4.42 xFIP, 1.43 HR/9, 21.5% K-rate
Despite the dip in production, Burnes would be the best starting pitcher available this summer. With that comes significant interest from World Series contenders.
- Baltimore Orioles: A lack of starting pitching is the only thing standing in the way of the Baltimore Orioles challenging for the AL East title. Through 50 games, Baltimore ranks 21st in rotation ERA (4.89), 22nd in WHIP (1.38) and 25th in rotation fWAR (1.6). Corbin Burnes would instantly become the ace of Baltimore’s pitching staff, providing the club with a Game 1 starter it could trust in a series against the Houston Astros or New York Yankees. Plus, the Orioles have more than enough depth and talent in the farm system to land Burnes.
- Houston Astros: Starting pitching used to be the Astros’ strength, but it’s become a concern this season. Lance McCullers Jr (elbow) won’t return until the All-Star Break, Luis Garcia underwent Tommy John surgery and Jose Urquidy (shoulder) is out until July at the earliest. It puts Houston at a massive disadvantage in a postseason series. Considering Burnes would just be owed another $5 million this season and the Astros rank 12th in payroll, he’s an ideal target for the front office.
- New York Yankees: On paper, the Yankees might have the most talented rotation in baseball. Unfortunately for New York, Frankie Montas and Carlos Rodón haven’t pitched this season. It’s also been demonstrated over the past four years that Luis Severino isn’t a safe bet to stay healthy. The Yankees rank 16th in rotation ERA (4.41) in large part because of Gerrit Cole, but far more help is needed. New York could take its chances on Rodón, Montas and Severino being healthy in October, but the danger of that risk-reward gamble is everyone will be fired if the Yankees collapse in the playoffs again.