The day was always coming. We dreaded it, we knew it would be painful, we thought the later it got that maybe the day wouldn't arrive, and that little bit of hope made the day's arrival all the more painful. Of course I'm speaking of the day the Brewers would trade away the best homegrown starting pitcher they have ever known, Corbin Burnes.
Late on Thursday night, two weeks before pitchers and catchers were set to report, the Brewers completed a trade with the Orioles to send Burnes to Baltimore for DL Hall, Joey Ortiz, and a 2024 Draft pick.
After all this anticipation for a few years that the Brewers would ultimately make this deal, was it worth it? Did the Brewers walk away having made a good trade?
Breaking Down The Corbin Burnes Trade With The Orioles
The Orioles are the clear, immediate winners of this trade in 2024. Burnes is the frontline starting pitcher they were desperately seeking all offseason. He will give them a legitimate shot at advancing through the 2024 postseason and puts them as clear favorites in a tough AL East.
The Brewers meanwhile, make their roster objectively worse in 2024, which means they are the clear losers of this deal. Losing Burnes and replacing him with DL Hall is a major downgrade in both expected innings and performance in those innings. Milwaukee's rotation has lost Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Adrian Houser this offseason and the only replacements brought in are now Hall and Joe Ross, who has missed the last two seasons due to injury.
After signing Rhys Hoskins and seemingly having a very good roster with few question marks, the Brewers now gave themselves a major roster question mark and put themselves in a much more difficult position to win in 2024 and repeat as NL Central champions.
Let's look into what the Brewers got back. At first glance, it's very underwhelming. At second glance, it's still kind of underwhelming.
Joey Ortiz is a glove-first infielder that can play shortstop, but there are questions about his bat. He hit .321 in Triple-A last year, and he's expected to bring good contact skills, but he struggled in a limited MLB debut and his power leaves a lot to be desired. His glove makes him an everyday possibility, but where? Shortstop is held down by Willy Adames for now, while Brice Turang also has an excellent glove and spent almost all of last season in the big leagues at second base. Ortiz profiles similar to Turang at the plate, except without the speed.
It appears the Brewers will be trying Ortiz at third base, where another top prospect, Tyler Black, is expected to compete for the starting job. Black is a better all around hitter but Ortiz has stronger defense. This will be a battle to watch in spring training.
DL Hall is the key to this deal. For seven years, Hall has been a highly rated prospect, which is a very long time to be a prospect. Prospect fatigue sets in, Hall has dealt with a lat strain, an elbow injury, and a back injury in his career that have slowed him down. On top of that, Hall has a career 5.3 BB/9 in the minors, making his command a major concern that could limit his upside.
The Brewers believe Hall can be a starter. The Crew's pitching lab is top notch and perhaps they can smooth out some things the Orioles weren't able to with their inferior pitching development. If Hall turns out to be the starter his elite pure stuff says he could be, then the Brewers might be the long-term winners of this trade. He's long been profiled as a reliever in Baltimore because the command just isn't there and even if he becomes this potentially elite reliever, if he's a reliever, this trade remains a massive failure for Milwaukee.
Let's not forget about the Draft pick either. The Brewers get the Orioles Competitive Balance Round A pick in this year's Draft, which will be 34th overall. That's an extra couple million in bonus pool dollars and an opportunity to manage another strong draft. However, the 2024 class is much weaker than last year's class or what the 2025 class will be, and the Orioles will retain the opportunity to give Burnes a QO and get that pick back in a stronger draft, so the Orioles still come out ahead here.
Burnes Trade Grade: D
The Orioles got the ace they wanted, an inside track to sign Burnes to a long-term deal next offseason, and gave up nobody that hurts to lose. They're the obvious winners here.
The Brewers could salvage not losing this trade if Hall can become a reliable starting pitcher. But Hall has not had a season with more than 100 IP in his career. It's going to be at least two or three years before he throws enough innings to being a qualified starter most likely. Even then, how good is he going to be?
Ortiz doesn't have the power to fit at the hot corner and is another defense-first player that's probably best fit for a utility role. The Brewers have plenty of great defenders in the infield and in order to beat them out, he's going to have to hit his way into the lineup and he may not be able to.
Milwaukee starts off losing this trade, whether they stay losing this trade or not depends on DL Hall's development of command and sticking in the rotation.