It took a bit longer than everyone expected, but the Baltimore Orioles finally found their rotation upgrade, sending infield prospect Joey Ortiz and lefty DL Hall (plus the 34th pick in the 2024 MLB Draft) to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for 2021 NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes. The O’s already had among the best young cores in the league; now, they’ve addressed their biggest need, adding one of the game’s premier workhorses to a starting staff that felt at least one arm short.
The question now becomes: Is Baltimore’s rotation good enough to vault it to the top of the American League pennant picture? Has GM Mike Elias done enough this offseason, or is there more work ahead? Let’s take a look at where things stand right now.
Orioles projected rotation after Corbin Burnes trade
Again, things can still change between now and Opening Day — acquiring Burnes probably takes another big splash off the table, but Elias could add another depth arm even without a run at a big name like Jordan Montgomery or Blake Snell — but here’s how the Orioles’ starting staff currently lines up.
1. RHP Corbin Burnes
2. RHP Kyle Bradish
3. RHP Grayson Rodriguez
4. LHP John Means
5. RHP Tyler Wells
6. RHP Dean Kremer
With Bradish enjoying a breakout 2023, Rodriguez finally living up to his prospect hype down the stretch and Means even further removed from his Tommy John rehab, Baltimore probably could’ve stood pat and once again found themselves at or near the top of the AL East. This is still among the deeper lineups in baseball, and one that can win lots of regular-season games more or less on its own.
But Elias didn’t make this deal for the regular season; he did it with an eye on October, where the O’s fell flat in an ALDS sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers last season. Burnes gives Baltimore a legitimate ace, a guy that Brandon Hyde won’t have any qualms about handing the ball to for a Game 1 start. That also has something of a catalytic effect on this rotation: Slotting Burnes at the top bumps Bradish and Rodriguez down to No. 2 and 3, roles for which they’re better suited at this point in their careers.
Elias could probably stand to add another arm before spring training gets going, given Means’ injury history and the iffiness surrounding Wells (who pitched himself out of the rotation amid a dreadful second half last season) and Kremer. Should Means suffer another setback, or Wells or Kremer fall off, depth could become an issue in a hurry. Flush with new-ownership cash, expect Baltimore to be in the market for a veteran like Hyun-Jin Ryu — or they could just wait until the trade deadline, and tap into baseball’s best farm system for yet another blockbuster.