On a day of heart-rending news for Baltimore’s pitching staff, I couldn’t keep a fantastical thought out of my mind: If only the Orioles could clone Corbin Burnes.

The 29-year-old has been everything the club could have reasonably hoped and more. He’s been as steady-handed as a surgeon, delivering a 2.35 ERA across his 12 starts. His mid-90s cutter has kept opposing batters cowed. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his appearances.

Burnes has lived up to his reputation as an ace, and more than throwing hard, more than being difficult to hit, more than being competitive in every start, aces are one thing especially: rare. The Orioles already have two young pitchers who could one day be aces in Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez. It seems bold to hope the Orioles could find another.

But then again … why couldn’t they?

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Injuries have been lurking around this pitching staff since spring training, but now a shoe has finally dropped. John Means and Tyler Wells are done for the year with elbow surgery, and neither will likely be ready at the start of 2025 (Means, a pending free agent, might be with a different team). Starting pitching has been a strength of the team a third of the way through the season, but now they’ll have to find a way forward without one of their top lefties and a right-hander who showed a lot of promise in the first half of last season.

Baltimore is benefiting from surprising performances from Cole Irvin and Albert Suárez, but it’s hard to know if you can trust pitchers in their 30s to keep up with career-best performances. Bradish, Rodriguez and Dean Kremer have also spent time on the IL this season, adding to the anxiety.

What the Orioles could use — what any team could use — is another Burnes. They could use a reliable veteran who never blows up on the mound. But unlike a lot of teams, the Orioles have the resources to get another high-level starter.

Baltimore’s front office has been squatting over the top farm system in baseball for a while now, and they’ve clutched onto their prospects. When Mike Elias traded for Burnes, many close observers in baseball were gobsmacked — not because it didn’t make sense, but because it was such a wild departure from the tight-fisted way the Orioles have done business in the last five years.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Corbin Burnes (39), seen here on April 14, has a 2.35 ERA across his 12 starts. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Seeing an opportunity, the Orioles made a big swing for a difference-making player. Guess what? It’s working out. They had to give up Joey Ortiz, who is playing well, and DL Hall, who is hurt. But neither player was going to get much of a chance on a stacked Baltimore roster, so it was essentially a win-win.

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The Orioles could use another starter. They still have tons of prospects backed up in the minors (paging Connor Norby and his 901 Triple-A plate appearances). They still need to look for every edge in a stacked American League East.

They should go big-game hunting again.

It would be refreshing, especially in contrast to the small moves (or, cynically, unambitious moves) this front office typically makes at the deadline. Low-cost deals to add Jack Flaherty and Shintaro Fujinami didn’t risk much, but neither helped much in the playoffs. Adding Jacob Webb is paying off better this season than last, but as well as he’s pitching, he still hasn’t had the impact Burnes has.

The Orioles pride themselves in finding the needles in the haystack, but to keep their path to contention open, they need to think big.

Could you pry lefty Tyler Anderson from the Angels? Would the Blue Jays give up Yusei Kikuchi, or would Miami ship off Jesús Luzardo? Oakland’s Mason Miller isn’t a starter, but he sure looks like a difference-maker — would the A’s say yes to a trade if the O’s shipped a few of their backlogged prospects? Justin Verlander has a no-trade clause in Houston, but if the Astros continue to sink, would he agree to come to Baltimore and lend his postseason experience?

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We might not know for another month or so if these trades are even possible, given how wide-open wild card chases can be. Chances are Baltimore is keeping tabs on players who could be even more impactful than the ones listed above. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be, anyway.

History tells us the Orioles will make value-driven moves around the fringes. Even if a few of those hit, they are unlikely to be the deals that send them to the World Series. In trading for Burnes, the Orioles showed us they’re prepared to make splashy acquisitions in the hunt for the franchise’s first World Series title since 1983.

But doing one big deal is a data point. If they do it again, that’s when we’ll say it’s a trend.

The first one worked out spectacularly. It brought them their most effective pitcher this season. That offers an encouraging path forward on an otherwise grim day.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

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