Right-hander Corbin Burnes of the Brewers is one of the most attractive trade candidates this winter but it’s not clear if the club will actually pull the trigger on a deal. Earlier today, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the Brewers “have engaged teams in recent days” about Burnes. But last night, Jon Heyman of The New York Post reported that rival clubs think Burnes is likely to remain in Milwaukee.
It’s a tricky spot for the Brewers to be in, as there are arguments for both sides. On the one hand, they are the reigning division champions and are in a strong position to do well again in 2024. Brandon Woodruff’s injury and subsequent non-tender hurts them, but they have one of the best prospects in the league, Jackson Chourio, on the rise and potentially debuting next year. With Woodruff out of the picture, trading Burnes would only further hamper a rotation that has been such a strength for them.
But on the other hand, Burnes is going into his final season of arbitration control. He recently spoke candidly about how an extension is not in the cards. They could hold onto him and give him a qualifying offer at the end of 2024, but they would likely be able to get something better by trading him now. There’s also the risk, as they just saw with Woodruff, that an injury completely alters their future plans.
If Burnes were available, he would undoubtedly get plenty of interest. All reports indicate that the demand for starting pitching is incredibly high this offseason. Some clubs will be able to sign marque free agents like Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery or Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but others will come up short in those pursuits while some clubs won’t be able to shop in that aisle at all due to payroll concerns. Burnes is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz for an arbitration salary of $15.1MM next year, a bargain for a pitcher of his quality.
The righty has tossed 622 1/3 innings over the past four seasons with an earned run average of 2.86. He has struck out 30.9% of batters faced in that time, walked 7.1% of opponents and kept 46.4% of balls in play on the ground. His tally of 17.9 wins above replacement in that frame, per FanGraphs, is second to Zack Wheeler among all pitchers in the league.
He has already been connected to the Dodgers, Cubs and Orioles in rumors but it stands to reason that plenty of other clubs would be interested. MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently took a look at some of the best fits in a theoretical trade.
Today’s reports don’t shed much light on the possibility of a trade actually coming together. It’s fair to assume that the Brewers would want to have talks with all potential trade partners and assess the packages on offer before deciding what is best for the club in 2024 and in the long run. They could use some upgrades on the infield and in the rotation, and the latter of those two needs would only grow if Burnes did end up in another uniform.