One of the worst kept secrets in baseball this offseason was that the Brewers and Corbin Burnes were going to be parting company at some point before the end of the 2024 season. For the Houston Astros, this was more a curiosity that could impact the market and maybe be a fun trade deadline target and nothing more.
Burnes is making $15 million in 2024 and initial reports suggested Milwaukee was asking for the moon to give him up.
However, looks can be deceiving, and as it turns out the Brewers were apparently willing to accept far less than the moon for Burnes as he was traded to the Orioles on Thursday night.
Astros sitting out on Corbin Burnes' market isn't what it seems
On the surface, it looks like malpractice that the Astros weren't more involved in Burnes' trade market given the return. Joey Ortiz is a fine player and very strong defender, but he's also a fringe top-100 prospect, and DL Hall hasn't been able to stick as a starter on an Orioles team that was desperate for rotation help. The 34th pick in the 2024 Draft is nice, but not one that moves the needle a ton.
A comparable package from the Astros would look something like prospects Joey Loperfido, Rhett Kouba, and Zach Daniels. It would only be for one year of Corbin Burnes, but it would be one year of a guy that is a perennial Cy Young contender and who would make the Astros a bonafide juggernaut for 2024.
On the Astros' end, their reasoning is probably simple: they have gone as far as they can right now. Trading for Justin Verlander really pillaged their minor league depth, and signing Josh Hader already pushed them past where Jim Crane is normally comfortable spending. There are other factors, like how the Brewers love defense, so they probably REALLY wanted Ortiz as a result. The Astros also don't have a tradable pick to send, which definitely impacted talks if the Brewers liked the incoming draft class.
At the end of the day, the Astros will have their reasons why such a move for Burnes wasn't worth pursuing, but that doesn't make sitting out of the sweepstakes feel any better.