What type of return could they get back for a year of control of Corbin Burnes, Willy Adames or Adrian Houser? What about players with more control like Christian Yelich, Tyrone Taylor or even Devin Williams? And, could a potential sell-off accelerate a quick retool for the small market Brewers to stay competitive after their recent run of success?
With Hyun Jin Ryu and Triple-A depth starter Zach Thompson declaring free agency, and trades that have thinned the organizational ranks of higher level starting pitching, like Sem Robberse, Adam Kloffenstein and Nick Frasso, Toronto is down to Mitch White, Bowden Francis and top prospect Ricky Tiedemann in terms of likely MLB-ready starting pitching depth for 2024. Could Burnes help there?
After a season where only six pitchers made 158 - or 97.5% - of the Blue Jays’ 162 starts, it might be prudent to see that as a statistical anomaly in terms of extreme good health. Should the Jays want to add starting pitching depth, a potentially savvy solution might be to trade for a one-year rental on 29-year old Corbin Burnes so that Tiedemann can build up innings with Buffalo, and Alek Manoah can work his way back without the added stress of the Jays betting their season on his return to form.
Alongside NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell and AL Cy Young finalist Sonny Gray, who are both free agents, Burnes might be the best available starter ahead of the 2024 season. The three-time All-Star and 2021 NL Cy Young winner is only a year away from free agency, so is likely to want to test the market given predictions of a $275~350M long term deal in free agency.
Over the past three full seasons, he’s gone 33-21 with a 2.94 ERA and 2.92 FIP over 93 starts and 562.2 innings, with a stellar ERA+ of 141 and a 10.8 K/9 rate vs only 2.4 BB/9. In 2023, he helped lead Milwaukee to the NL Central title with a 10-8 record and 3.39 ERA over 32 starts and 193.2 innings, with 200 Ks and 66 walks, and an NL-leading WHIP of 106.9. MLBTR predicts him winning $15.1M in his final year of arbitration in 2024, a number that won’t scare away the Blue Jays.
In terms of acquisition cost, a year of Burnes would likely be somewhere between the two pitching prospects (Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson) the Mets sent the Jays for 1.5 years of Marcus Stroman at the 2019 trade deadline, or prospects Luis Patiño, Blake Hunt and Cole Wilcox, along with catcher Francisco Mejía, who the Padres sent to Tampa Bay for three years of control of Snell in December 2020.