The Orioles, reluctant to spend money for much of John Angelos’ tenure at the helm, made their most luxurious trade on Thursday, acquiring former Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes a day after news broke that billionaire David Rubenstein is leading a group to buy a stake in the team.
Burnes will be paid $15.6 million, the highest single-season salary for a player brought in since Angelos was designated the club’s control person in 2020. The timing, considering the Orioles’ recent track record, is auspicious. But this move was done under the approval of Angelos, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said on a Zoom call with reporters Friday, and it is one that they have been working toward since the start of the offseason.
Angelos is the club’s chairman until the sale, which has to be approved by at least 75% of MLB owners, is finalized.
“I’ve worked — and continue to work — very closely with him on everything since I’ve been here,” Elias said of Angelos. “He and I worked on this trade. It’s been brewing for months. The items in the news that have coincided with the timing is not part and parcel of the trade.”
This move does, however, usher in a new era for the Orioles. They are trading two major league-ready players in left-handed pitcher DL Hall and infielder Joey Ortiz, in addition to a 2024 draft pick, for only one guaranteed year with Burnes. Although Hall and Ortiz may not have earned everyday roles this year — Hall would likely have been in the bullpen instead of the rotation and Ortiz was blocked in the infield — they have the potential to be major contributors in the future.
Acquiring Burnes represents a win-now mentality.
“It’s a risky move, but I think it lines up for both sides,” Elias said.
They still do, however, get to keep their five top prospects, all of whom are under 23, and should retain their ranking as the No. 1 farm system.
The Orioles went into the offseason hoping for a rotation upgrade, and Burnes, a three-time All-Star with a career ERA of 3.26, certainly checks that box.
Burnes said he was shocked by the trade, given how close it is to spring training.
He’s pitched at Camden Yards just once. Because he’s spent his entire career with the Brewers, Burnes noted there will be an adjustment as a new division gets to know him. His focus is on getting to know the team, he said, not on his impending free agency or possible contract extension talks.
“Obviously fortunate to be traded from one team that is good to one that is arguably better,” he said. “I’ve been a part of winning seasons for the last seven years. I know what it takes to get to the postseason on a regular basis.”
Burnes will slot into a starting rotation mix that currently includes Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, John Means and Dean Kremer, with Tyler Wells and Cole Irvin also possibilities. Aside from Means, who missed most of the last two seasons after Tommy John elbow surgery, the Orioles’ rotation is inexperienced.
“Just looking forward to passing what I can to these young guys in the rotation,” Burnes said. “Obviously Bradish had a great year last year, Rodriguez had a great second half last year. Some bright, young names that have some great stuff.”
With less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, Elias said they are not expecting to make another splash to acquire a starting pitcher. And, although this move may only help them this year, there’s no way to know how an influx of cash from Rubenstein and his partnership group would change the way the Orioles do business.
“It would be very irresponsible for me to bake in more than he’s under contract for as we are calculating a trade,” Elias said. “We would look at the likelihood of someone recouping a comp pick if they went to free agency at the end of this season, but this isn’t [what] he nor I nor [agent] Scott Boras is thinking about right now.”