After waiting for what seemed like forever, the Baltimore Orioles have finally made their splash. In a blockbuster swap just a day after the team was sold, the Orioles dealt for former Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes.
The Orioles were the best team in the American League last season. However, they were swept by the eventual World Series champion Texas Rangers in the ALDS. With a young roster that appears only to be getting better, they stayed quiet for most of the offseason. That is, until last night:
A trade that sent Joey Ortiz, DL Hall, and the 34th overall pick of the 2024 draft to Milwaukee in exchange for Burnes came across the timeline last night. This is a trade that the Orioles hope will solidify their status as World Series contenders.
Orioles 2024 Rotation
There was a clear need for an Ace with a capital “A” in Baltimore. While Kyle Bradish was spectacular last season, this will only be his third year in the majors. The team needed someone with a proven track record to lead the rotation in 2024.
|Projected 2024 Rotation
|2024 ZiPS Projections
|1. Corbin Burnes
|193 IP, 3.39 ERA, 9.29 K/9
|179 IP, 3.32 ERA, 9.91 K/9
|2. Kyle Bradish
|168.2 IP, 2.83 ERA, 8.96 K/9
|155.1 IP, 3.71 ERA, 8.58 K/9
|3. Grayson Rodriguez
|122 IP, 4.35 ERA, 9.52 K/9
|141.2 IP, 4.06 ERA, 9.72 K/9
|4. John Means*
|23.2 IP, 2.66 ERA, 3.80 K/9
|85 IP, 4.24 ERA, 6.67 K/9
|5. Dean Kremer
|172.2 IP, 4.12 ERA, 8.18 K/9
|154 IP, 3.86 ERA, 7.71 K/9
Take the projections with a grain of salt. Personally, I think the projected innings are selling the Orioles short. Regardless, this is a marked improvement upon the 2023 rotation.
Baltimore’s starting pitchers finished with a 4.14 ERA last season, seventh-best in the AL. By FanGraphs WAR, they ranked ninth. That doesn’t sound particularly impressive, yet the rotation actually overperformed expectations in 2023.
It would be putting a lot of pressure on their starters to expect them to exceed expectations again in 2024. By adding Burnes, a pitcher who can compete for the Cy Young, it takes the pressure off players like Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez.
Bradish was one of the biggest surprises in baseball last season. In just his second major league campaign, he finished fourth in Cy Young voting. While I certainly think Bradish is here to stay and last year was not a fluke, it would be unrealistic to expect him to improve upon a 2.83 ERA.
Now, go look at teams across Major League Baseball. How many of them have a number three starter as good as Rodriguez? There are still some top free agents left to be signed, but right now, it is probably just the Mariners, D-backs, Dodgers, and maybe the Marlins and/or Guardians.
Rodriguez finished last season incredibly strong. In the second half, he threw 76.2 innings of 2.58-ERA baseball. He was one of the best pitchers in the game after the All-Star break. He issued the same number of walks as he issued in the first half despite throwing about 30 fewer innings. On top of that, his opponents hit just .227 while slugging .306.
Burnes, Bradish, and Rodriguez now form a formidable top of the rotation.
The Effect on the Bullpen
One of the more underrated aspects of the Burnes trade is the effect it will have on the bullpen. Before the trade, there was going to be a competition in spring training for the fifth starter spot. It would have likely gone to Tyler Wells or Cole Irvin. Now, with a more solidified rotation, the bullpen can call for reinforcements.
Wells put together an amazing season in 2023 through his first 17 starts but ran out of gas later in the year. However, after a trip to the minor leagues where he transitioned into a bullpen role, he came back to Baltimore and pitched ten scoreless, hitless innings in September. The loss of Félix Bautista is going to be incredibly hard, and the Orioles need all the help they can get.
Adding Burnes also allows Irvin to move into the sixth starter/swingman role. The lefty struggled at the start of last season but was eventually able to settle in. In his final four starts of the season, he had a 3.74 ERA in 21.2 innings. He was also solid out of the bullpen, posting a 3.26 ERA in 19.1 frames.
Not only did the Orioles add Corbin Burnes, but they also added a solid arm to the bullpen that otherwise would have been in the rotation.
The Outlook for 2024
This one move has suddenly taken the Orioles from a solid playoff team to undoubtedly one of the best teams in baseball. It is not often that one player can change a team’s outlook that much, but with the foundation the Orioles had already built, Burnes appears to be the piece that can push them over the top.
The Orioles’ projected win total has increased, and their odds of winning the AL East and World Series have shifted too. They currently have the 6th best odds to win the 2024 World Series on Bet MGM at +1400, which is tied with the Phillies. They also have a win total set at 91.5 and the second-best odds to win the division.
The world has caught on, and this team is no longer an underdog. These are not the same Orioles as before – this team has a target on its back. Time will tell if Baltimore is prepared to go from being the hunter to the hunted.