Trades can be difficult to judge. Oftentimes teams don't know until one, two, or even three years down the line whether or not the deal they made was a success or a failure. But sometimes you just know, right?
On Thursday night, the Milwaukee Brewers sent Cy Young Award-winner Corbin Burnes to Baltimore in exchange for Joey Ortiz, DL Hall, and the Orioles Competitive Balance Round A Draft pick in 2024. This was widely seen as a win for the O's, who are coming off a 100-plus win season and looking to make a push to win the American League pennant in 2024.
Opinions are split, however, on the return Milwaukee received in exchange for Burnes. This is not to discount what Ortiz and Hall could bring to the Brewers organization, but the price for frontline starting pitching has skyrocketed this offseason. And when you compare the assets Milwaukee received, it pales in comparison to the Cincinnati Reds' deal at the 2022 trade deadline that sent Tyler Mahle to the Minnesota Twins.
Reds’ return in Tyler Mahle trade makes Brewers look like fools for Corbin Burnes deal
Reds fans will remember the 2022 season as the year in which Cincinnati lost 100 games. However, it was also the same year that the Reds acquired some pivotal pieces for the future. The biggest deal the Reds pulled off that season was sending Luis Castillo to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Levi Stoudt, Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo, and Andrew Moore.
But Nick Krall also pulled a rabbit out of his hat at the 2022 trade deadline when he manipulated the Minnesota Twins into a deal for Tyler Mahle. In return, the Reds received infielders Spencer Steer, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and pitching prospect Steve Hajjar. The Reds then traded Hajjar and an outfield prospect in order to secure Will Benson from the Cleveland Guardians.
This is meant as no disrespect to Mahle, but he isn't even in the same stratosphere as Burnes. Removing the fact that Mahle only pitched in nine games for the Twins due to injury, the former Reds starter still falls woefully short of Burnes' accolades in almost every category. Mahle's best season saw the right-hander record 210 punch outs. Burnes has three consecutive seasons of 200 strikeouts or more.
Burnes has three All-Star appearances under his belt and has finished in the Top 10 of the NL Cy Young voting for four straight seasons. Mahle has never sniffed a Cy Young vote throughout his seven years in the big leagues.
If the Brewers are selling, it makes the Reds path to the NL Central title much easier
Furthermore, when you look at what the Brewers actually received in return, it was relatively light. The Orioles were able to hang on to Jackson Holliday, Samuel Basallo, Colton Cowser, Coby Mayo, and Heston Kjerstad; all of whom are Top 100 prospects according to MLB Pipeline. Joey Ortiz comes in at No. 63, so it's not as if the Brewers totally whiffed, however, the five prospects still remaining in Baltimore's farm system rank ahead of Ortiz.
Ortiz has put up solid numbers in the minor leagues, but has always been seen as a glove-first shortstop. The success of this deal for Milwaukee hinges on the development of DL Hall. The southpaw was a Top 100 prospect earlier in his career, and while he gets a lot of swings and misses, Hall has career walk-rate in the minors of almost 14-percent.
Matt Arnold looked like a genius after signing Rhys Hoskins to a two-year deal earlier this offseason, but now that move has come into question as the Brewers look to be selling off some of their assets. Why sign Hoskins only to turn around and deal Burnes several days later?
Willy Adames could be next, and the Milwaukee fanbase could turn on their new lead executive very quickly if he's unable to get a suitable return for their power-hitting shortstop. If Adames is moved before the start of the 2024 season, the Cincinnati Reds' perceived advantage in the NL Central will only grow larger.