Why the Cardinals should make an offer for Brewers' Corbin Burnes

The Brewers have openly stated they want to cut costs, and Corbin Burnes could be one of the first players to go. The Cardinals should explore a deal.

Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals
Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals / Joe Puetz/GettyImages

The Milwaukee Brewers are looking to cut costs in 2024. Despite finishing first in the National League Central and making a decent push in the playoffs this last year, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required) reported at the General Manager meetings that the Brewers are open to trading anyone, including the perennial Cy Young Candidate, Corbin Burnes.

MLB Trade Rumors predicts Burnes to receive about $15.1 million through arbitration for 2024, and Burns will be a free agent after this season. Additionally, Milwaukee's shortstop Willy Adames figures to draw plenty of trade interest. If Milwaukee trades both Burnes and Adames, they would be in full-sell mode, and they would probably request high-end, younger prospects for teams. At least Corbin Burnes would be able to draw players of that ilk.

The Brewers and Burnes have been at odds for the last year or so. His arbitration case dragged on and Burnes fell a bit spurned by the team he has claimed loyalty to for nearly a decade. If Burnes and the Brewers are truly at odds and if Milwaukee is looking to "retool" this upcoming season, then Burnes will more than likely be on the move before or during the 2024 season.

The St. Louis Cardinals would be wise to call Brewers' General Manager Matt Arnold and see what the asking price for Burnes is. While it may seem farfetched for an intra-division trade of this magnitude to occur, it isn't unprecedented. Lou Brock was traded from the Cubs to the Cardinals in 1964, and Bruce Sutter came from the Cubs to the Cardinals in 1980. That same year Whitey Herzog sent Ted Simmons and Rollie Fingers to the Brewers. Plenty of intra-division trades have occurred, some more meaningful than others.

Perhaps the worst part of intra-division trades is the frequency with which each team has to face a player formerly in their system. If a prospect is traded, then those fans will have to watch that player succeed for many years while they may have to watch a more veteran player depart quicker in free agency. St. Louis has plenty of players to offer the Brewers, especially if Willy Adames is also traded.

The Cardinals could approach Corbin Burns about an extension during the season, but they could also trade for him this offseason and still have a qualifying offer (approximately $20 million for 2025) to extend to him. Should Burnes be traded to St. Louis this offseason and decline the qualifying offer next season, St. Louis will receive a compensatory pick in the 2025 draft. If he signs an extension, St. Louis has found its ace pitcher for many years to come.

It will take quite the package to land Corbin Burnes. He has 13.5 bWAR in about six years, he has one Cy Young trophy, and he has been an All-Star three times. Players with that pedigree don't come cheap. Milwaukee will more than likely be asking for controllable offensive players from the right side of the plate, high-end pitching prospects, and possibly even a corner infielder. Luckily, St. Louis has some players who would fit that bill.

Trade proposal: Tommy Edman, Tink Hence, and Cesar Prieto for Corbin Burnes

I'm not quite sure this will be enough, but St. Louis is forfeiting two years of a versatile shortstop/center fielder, a potential #2 starter with full team control remaining, and an infielder with a history of good bat-to-ball skills but a recent discovery of power who also has yet to record any service time. Two of those players will be in Milwaukee for a very long time, so St. Louis Cardinals fans will have to watch them play for the enemy for a long time, but if John Mozeliak can sign Corbin Burnes to an extension, St. Louis will have their ace of the future locked into the rotation. This trade will hurt, no doubt; nonetheless, it will net the team a true ace and will give a great boost to the rotation.