The Brewers are not going to improve their public image among fans by continuing to do things like this. It appears the Brewers are going to take their Cy Young award winning ace Corbin Burnes to an arbitration hearing over a difference of a whopping 740,000 dollars.
When the deadline to exchange figures came on Friday, the Brewers were able to come to settlements with 10 of their 11 remaining arbitration eligible players, including Willy Adames and Brandon Woodruff. The one name notably absent was Corbin Burnes.
Some may have been holding out hope that the two sides were busy hammering out a contract extension. Instead, things don't look promising on that front based on this fight.
Brewers GM Matt Arnold gave a statement that he hopes that neither side takes this personally. If that's the first thing he says after being unable to come to an agreement on salary, that's not a good sign.
The Brewers are playing a game of chicken with Corbin Burnes that they cannot win, even if they do win the arbitration case.
Later, the filing numbers were reported. Burnes filed for a $10.75MM salary while the Brewers filed to give him a $10.01MM salary. A difference of a measly $740k, which is roughly a league minimum salary for a single player. In baseball finances, that's barely a drop in the bucket.
Burnes is a second-year arbitration eligible player. The record salary for a starting pitcher in his second year of arbitration is $10.7MM for Jake Arrieta, who also had won a Cy Young previously. What Burnes is asking for is a record and Burnes has been an elite pitcher for longer than Arrieta was at the time he earned this salary.
The Brewers clearly feel differently, that he doesn't deserve the record for a second-time arbitration eligible starter. They opt to go just above $10MM so they can say they did but they aren't willing to go far enough to admit Burnes is the best and is deserving of the record salary. They're daring him to prove it in an arbitration hearing.
This is a stupid game of chicken that the Brewers will not win. Even if they win the arbitration case, they still lose.
They did this with Josh Hader a few years ago, not wanting to give him a record salary for a reliever. They took him to a hearing, successfully argued that he wasn't a top reliever because he didn't have the saves numbers, and won the case. Ever since then, Hader didn't want to pitch multiple innings anymore and made himself a one inning closer only because that's how he was going to get paid. He clearly was unhappy with management about it, management was unhappy he was unwilling to pitch multiple innings anymore, and he was traded last August.
Sure, they won the case against Hader and saved a few bucks, but at what cost? To what end? Now they're looking at going down the same road with Burnes.
If the Brewers lose the case, they lose the case and have to pay Burnes an extra $740k. If they win the case, they save $740k, big whoop-de-do, and they likely cost themselves any chance of signing him to an extension or even keeping him happy throughout the remainder of his Brewers tenure. Winning this case is going to cost them more than $740k in the long run.
There is no benefit to winning this arbitration battle with Corbin Burnes. They can say that it's nothing personal and that Burnes shouldn't take any of this salary battle personally, but let's be adults here. This isn't fantasy land. We know that what is said in an arbitration hearing changes things. It changed things for Hader, Burnes' best friend on the team, and if the Brewers take it to a hearing again, it'll change things for Burnes.
If they lose, they lose. If they win, they still lose. It doesn't matter if the Brewers feel they have better comps for Burnes and can win the case. Read the room and understand the situation. So Burnes wants a record salary for a 2nd year arb eligible pitcher, so what? If anyone deserves it, it's him. The money here is such an insignificant difference in the grand scheme of things between what the Brewers filed at and what Burnes is asking for.
All this battle is going to do is prove to Burnes that the team doesn't care about its players and paying them what they're worth, and it proves to the fans that ownership is pinching pennies and isn't willing to pay even the slightest bit more to its first Cy Young winner in 40 years. The Brewers have nothing to gain here and everything to lose.