I can't believe this needs to be said. No, the Milwaukee Brewers should not, can not, and will not trade away staff ace and 2021 NL Cy Young Corbin Burnes this offseason.
Ever since the Brewers traded away Josh Hader at the Trade Deadline, the vultures have been circling. "Who's traded next?" "The Brewers seem to be selling and starting a rebuild." "They could get a haul for Burnes." Yada yada yada, just stop it.
Just seeing the "rumors" on Twitter and the ideas for trade proposals was annoying, but I didn't put any stock into any of it because it's just people on Twitter coming up with content ideas in the offseason. Whatever. But then Ken Rosenthal writes in his notes column about it.
Rosenthal wrote that Burnes is expected to be in play on the trade market this offseason (along with Adrian Houser, FWIW) and that the Brewers "might believe" that Burnes will never match his 2021 Cy Young season again and that they can't afford to sign him to an extension. So they might trade him because they might believe that his best days might be behind him, but overall a trade might happen, per Rosenthal. Consider that pot stirred.
It cannot be overstated how bad a Corbin Burnes trade would look for the Brewers organization.
Immediately following the Hader trade, the Brewers put out a statement, saying that they expect to remain competitive every single year. That they do not want to go into a rebuilding cycle. Since then, they've reiterated that they aren't rebuilding and will be looking to improve the roster heading into 2023. They believe the core of the team is sound. They believe in the group they have built. GM Matt Arnold said extensions for players such as Burnes were a "high priority" for him.
All those words will ring hollow if they were to trade Corbin Burnes this offseason.
What is everyone to believe if the Brewers trade Josh Hader and Corbin Burnes within six months of each other? Are we supposed to believe that doesn't signal a rebuild? A combined six All-Star appearances between those two and to trade away 3.5 seasons of control over them would perfectly fit the definition of a rebuild. Everyone will know and believe that this front office has given up, they're selling core players and the focus is on the future instead of right here, right now.
The Brewers cannot argue that they're making the team better by trading away Hader and Burnes within six months of each other. There is no player or players they could get back that would immediately improve this team more than having them on the team would be. Especially since we already saw the results of the Hader trade. They got two prospects for Hader who did nothing to improve the Crew's chances in 2022. They also got two relievers, one of whom they DFAed within 48 hours, and the other posted a 5.48 ERA and is now a free agent.
The blowback the Brewers front office received from both players and fans was vicious and surprising for a group that had mostly blind trust for several years. The front office was shocked by the blowback. If they thought it was bad for just the Hader trade, it would be ten times as worse if they move Burnes the following offseason. Calls to sell the team and to fire Matt Arnold would begin in earnest.
It doesn't even matter who they would hypothetically get back in a Burnes trade. It would likely be another mix of major league and minor league talent just like the Hader trade was billed. Well, the Hader trade turned out to be only minor league talent after the DFA of Lamet and struggles of Rogers, and whatever major league talent they might get would be inferior to what Burnes brings to the table.
The Brewers simply cannot trade Corbin Burnes this offseason, or really at all. The front office used all their trust equity in the Hader deal. The fact that the trade itself blew up in their faces in 2022 doesn't help things. They missed the postseason, in large part because of the impact the Hader trade had on their roster and their clubhouse. This offseason is out of the question for a Burnes trade. Next July is the same thing, how can you be a competitive team or try to be a competitive team and trade your ace away at the Deadline? They have designs on being competitive in 2024 and beyond. Would be a mistake to move Burnes that offseason or Trade Deadline either.
At the end of season press conference, it sounded like the Brewers learned from their mistake in the Hader trade and would not be making it again. But Ken Rosenthal says not so fast.
It is not in the Brewers best interest to trade away their ace starting pitcher. It's not in the best interest of the roster, or their hopes to compete in 2023 and 2024, or for keeping the fan base happy, which they do need to do. The fans are already on edge after the Hader debacle. Trading Burnes on top of that so shortly after would only compound the problem the Brewers face. That's why I don't buy the idea that Burnes could be traded this offseason.
Any sort of trade from their core, whether it be Burnes, or Brandon Woodruff, or Willy Adames, would signal a rebuild, a fire sale, and a lack of willingness to spend to build a winning roster. They developed Burnes. They turned him into an ace. Giving him up two years early because he was too good and started to earn too much money would be a white flag of surrender for this organization.
There is no argument the front office could make to justify trading Burnes that anyone would buy. They have to know that after what happened with Hader just a few months ago. A trade of Burnes goes against everything this organization has said since the Hader deal.
They have eyes on the postseason and a World Series in 2023. It's hard enough to get there, but even harder when you trade away a workhorse ace with 200+ IP with a sub-3.00 ERA each of the last three seasons and the only starting pitcher that actually remained healthy for all of 2022. The rotation being ravaged by injuries is part of why they missed the playoffs this year. Trade your only healthy guy from that group? Bold strategy.
All these rumors can swirl all they want. But the bottom line is Burnes isn't going anywhere. Whether they believe they can extend him or not, trading him would be the worst move this organization could ever make. Even if you risk losing him in two years to free agency and a massive contract from someone else, that's a better look than just giving him up and gives you the best chance to win a World Series these next two years.
So, relax. Corbin Burnes isn't going anywhere if the Brewers have two brain cells to rub together. They simply can't do it because Burnes gives them the best chance to be competitive going forward, because that move would signal a full rebuild that they said they won't do, and because the wounds from the blowback to the Hader deal are too fresh for this front office for them to pull the trigger on a deal here.