Allegany Communications Sports
The Orioles continued to own the week in Baltimore and took over the calendar as well when two days after announcing they would be sold to a group led by private equity billionaire David Rubenstein, a native of Baltimore, for $1.725 billion, they turned a blockbuster trade to put the Ravens’ latest flat tire further into the rearview mirror by acquiring Corbin Burnes, one of the top four pitchers in baseball.
Burnes, the 2021 Cy Young Award winner for the Milwaukee Brewers, comes to Baltimore for his contract year in exchange for rookie infielder Joey Ortiz, left-hander D.L. Hall and their 2024 Competitive Balance Round A draft pick (No. 34 overall).
Certainly that is a quality package of talent the Orioles parted with, but it barely puts a dent in the surplus of talent in their No. 1-rated farm system. But to land a pitcher the caliber of Burnes, a strikeout machine who has finished in the top 10 in NL Cy Young balloting in each of the past four seasons, even if for just one season, the price was naturally going to be steep.
Clearly, the Orioles have announced with this trade they are in it to win it — this year, and beyond.
The deal, which places one of the game’s best pitchers atop the talented young rotation of Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, John Means and Dean Kremer/Tyler Wells/Cole Irvin on a team that won 101 games on its way to the American League East title last year, sent shockwaves through the AL East, with New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone’s assessment of the deal being, “That could be a bit of a problem.”
The Yankees, who finished 19 games behind the Orioles last year, had been fairly busy themselves this offseason, trading for spectacular slugging outfielder Juan Soto and adding starter Marcus Stroman. Yet behind ace Gerrit Cole, also one of the four best pitchers in baseball and last year’s Cy Young winner, there are question marks concerning the ability of Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortez to bounce back and for Clarke Schmidt to maintain the consistency he found last season after a slow start.
The Yankees tried in vain to land free agent right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto as well as Burnes to put behind Cole, but didn’t offer the capital for Yamamoto, who chose the Los Angeles Dodgers, and didn’t have the big-league ready prospects of the Orioles to trade for Burnes.
So, yes, Burnes going to the Orioles could be a bit of a problem for the Yankees, as well as for the Tampa Bay Rays (though never bet against them), the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox.
The Orioles said, and Orioles fans understood, in order to contend for a pennant, the club needed to bolster the top of the rotation, particularly after being swept in the playoffs by the Texas Rangers, and with Burnes they’ve done just that.
General manager Mike Elias, with this trade for an ace, is following his upbringing in the Houston Astros blueprint. Next he is bound to bolster the depth of the bullpen, particularly with the departure of the talented lefty Hall.
Previously, the Orioles signed closer Craig Kimbrel to help fill the void for the injured Felix Bautista.
So you’ll have to forgive Orioles fans for feeling giddy these days, just over a week before pitchers and catchers report. For much of the offseason, they complained about the cheapskate Orioles (with good reason) standing pat, until suddenly last week all hell broke loose in a way Orioles fans have not been accustomed:
After signing a closer to fill in for Bautista and just six weeks after signing a lease to stay in Baltimore for what will likely be at least 30 years, the club was sold to a group that includes multiple billionaires as well as Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr.
Two days later, they trade for an ace in Corbin Burnes.
Now that’s a pretty good offseason if you ask me, and I’m fairly certain they aren’t finished.
Fans naturally wondered, particularly given the timing of the announced sale and the trade for Burnes, if the trade was the doing of Rubenstein, the lead investor who will be the MLB control person of the team once the sale is approved by MLB.
According to Elias, it was John Angelos who signed off on the trade for Burnes, as he has been the team’s control person in the absence of his ailing father and will maintain that position until the sale is approved, which is likely to take two to three months for MLB to do.
Still, it’s already a different vibe, a fresher vibe around the Warehouse and around the region for all Orioles fans. Though Burnes has previously stated he will test free agency regardless of how this season goes, Orioles fans are confident new ownership will at least make a play to keep the pitcher, particularly since Orioles ownership of the recent past would not have even made the deal for a likely one-year rental such as Burnes without a change of the financial future of the club.
Most importantly, Orioles fans are now hopeful new ownership will take a first-things-first approach by extending the contracts of young stars Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson, which, in the case of Rutschman, is something most around MLB believe should have already been done.
To wit: The Kansas City Royals and shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., who was drafted No. 2 behind Rutschman, agreed to an 11-year $288.7 million contract extension on Monday.
In August, John Angelos said it would be impossible for the Orioles to extend their young stars without drastically raising prices for all that is the ballpark experience. With new Orioles ownership, led by David Rubenstein, all things will soon seem possible.
Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT