Reds vault atop NL Central hierarchy after Brewers shockingly trade Corbin Burnes

This was a big surprise!

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

The Cincinnati Reds path to the 2024 National League Central Division crown just became a little easier after a shocking development on Thursday night. The Milwaukee Brewers, last year's NL Central Champions, shipped Corbin Burnes off to the Baltimore Orioles in one of the most surprising moves of the MLB offseason. The Brewers are acquiring pitcher DL Hall and infielder Joey Ortiz. Mark Feinsand of MLB Network is reporting more players are expected to be part of the deal as well.

Burnes, who'd been a thorn in the Reds' side for years, will now be leaving the NL Central and join last year's AL East Champions, the Orioles. Baseball fans had been waiting all winter to see the O's make a splash, and they certainly did that with the acquisition of the former NL Cy Young Award-winner.

With Burnes now leaving Milwaukee, you can bet your bottom dollar that shortstop Willy Adames won't be far behind. Adames, just like Burnes, is in his final year of team control and unlikely to re-sign with the Brewers. Even if the Brew Crew keep Adames into the upcoming season, the Reds are now sitting pretty atop the NL Central Division hierarchy.

Reds vault atop NL Central hierarchy after Brewers shockingly trade Corbin Burnes

The Brewers had already lost Brandon Woodruff for the season after the All-Star starter underwent shoulder surgery that was going to keep him out of action for the 2024 season. Milwaukee non-tendered the right-hander earlier this offseason, and Woodruff remains unsigned. The Brewers recently signed Rhys Hoskins, which makes the Burnes trade all the more peculiar.

Throw in the fact that the Chicago Cubs are missing their biggest bat from last season, Cody Bellinger, and Cincinnati is in the catbird's seat at the moment. The St. Louis Cardinals made some additions to their starting rotation, but after finishing dead-last in the division a year ago, it's going to take more than a couple of aging veterans and Sonny Gray to up the Cards win-total from 2023.

Quite frankly, as silly as this may sound, the Pittsburgh Pirates have arguably the best roster aside from the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central heading into the upcoming season. Just like the Reds, the Buccos' roster is comprised of a lot of young, hungry talent who's looking to surprise everyone in 2024.

The latest trade is definitely a shock to the Brewers' fanbase. After losing their manager, Craig Counsell, earlier this offseason, now the Milwaukee faithful have lost two of their top starting pitchers. There's a youth movement beginning in the Cream City, but the Brewers' days of dominance atop the NL Central are over for now.