Question #5: Has Corbin Burnes thrown his last pitch for the Brewers?
The Brewers took Corbin Burnes to a contentious arbitration hearing last spring that damaged the relationship between the two. His projected price tag for 2024 is over $15MM.
Many have pegged this offseason as the time for the Brewers to trade Burnes away. Milwaukee hasn't had a top homegrown player reach free agency as a Brewer since Prince Fielder in 2011. They sent out Josh Hader in 2022 because of his rising price tag and it felt like they would do the same to Burnes eventually.
If they're going to do it, now would be the time. A Trade Deadline move would be waving surrender when the team is likely to be competitive, which causes problems in the clubhouse, like it did with the Hader trade. So a Deadline deal can be ruled out. That leaves just this winter.
The problem with that potential plan is that now the Brewers have lost Brandon Woodruff for the entire 2024 season, throwing a wrench into their rotation picture.
The answer to losing one of your co-aces for the season to injury is NOT to trade away your other, healthy co-ace. Not if the team plans on contending, anyway. Knowingly not having Woodruff and then shipping out Burnes would be waving the white flag on the 2024 season before it even starts. That doesn't sound like a strategy the Brewers would employ.
Burnes makes the Brewers a better team. Yes, they could get a solid return for him in a trade, but that doesn't mean trading him is the best move. Matt Arnold said he expects Burnes to be a Brewer in 2024, but that "we'll see what happens" over the course of the offseason.
Arnold didn't fully close the door on a Burnes trade. If some team meets his asking price, would Arnold pull the trigger, knowing that he won't have Woodruff to count on in the rotation this year?
These are the big questions facing the Brewers as this offseason gets going earlier than anyone was hoping. Some answers will come sooner than later, but we'll get answers to all of them over the coming weeks and months.