Yankees may have to wait until the summer to bid for 2021 NL Cy Young winner

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at New York Yankees
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

As the Yankees search the free agent and trade markets for pitching to add to their rotation, one of the names that have popped up is right-hander Corbin Burnes. The 29-year-old is one of the top pitchers in baseball, with the second-most fWAR (17.9) and the fifth-best ERA (2.86) among qualified starters since the 2020 season. He’s a highly sought-after pitcher on this market due to his combination of incredible stuff and pristine command, and over the past few seasons, he’s developed a reputation as a workhorse who can pitch deep into games and log nearly 200 innings a year.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, the Milwaukee Brewers seem to be intent on keeping him at least until the trade deadline, with Randy Miller of NJ.com reporting that teams are ‘sensing’ that he’ll stay put. This is in line with other reports over the last few weeks, and the Yankees will have to look elsewhere for a frontline starter.

Yankees Will Have to Monitor Other Options on the Market

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Oct 5, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes (39) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Navigating through this pitching market has proven to be difficult for the Yankees and many teams currently in the mix to add a starter as the demand far exceeds the supply of reliable pitching. The price has become sky-high for various pitchers on the trade market, with the Chicago White Sox demanding multiple premium prospects in a package for Dylan Cease, and the Milwaukee Brewers deciding that their best bet is holding onto Corbin Burnes at least until the trade deadline.

For the Brewers, their goal is to try and compete in a weak NL Central and repeat as champions, and while they’re not a juggernaut, they’ve done extremely well in their division over the last half-decade. They’ve gone back and forth with the St. Louis Cardinals for the division crown dating back to 2018, but after the usually excellent franchise went 71-91 and finished in last place, they’ll have a lot to prove before they’re considered a sure thing to reclaim their NL Central throne from Milwaukee, who went 92-70 guided by their excellent pitching staff.

FanGraphs projects St. Louis to walk away with the division with about five more projected wins than the Brewers, but their knack for developing pitching and finding surplus value on the market could cause them to shock teams. It’s well-known that Corbin Burnes will not be resigning in Milwaukee, as not only is his price tag likely too high for the Brewers to match, but his agent Scott Boras has historically been against doing extensions, and in the open market you would expect teams like the Yankees or Mets to be heavily involved in the bidding and price out a smaller market club.

MLB: New York Yankees-Aaron Judge press conference
Dec 21, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; Hal Steinbrenner during a press conference at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports

If the Brewers do play to projections, which have them finishing about two games below .500, a fire sale including Corbin Burnes could ensue, but for now, they’re making a sensical decision. The postseason comes with plenty of variance, and if they punch their ticket through the weak NL Central, they could host a playoff series with a chance to contend for a World Series title, and all is forgiven if they win it all in Wisconsin.

Even if they lose Burnes in free agency and fail to win the World Series, they’ll still get some excellent draft compensation through the qualifying offer. Barring an offer that they just cannot refuse, the reports about Burnes being held onto this winner will persist, and it’s the right call. The Yankees will have to look elsewhere, but they’re steadfast in their pursuit and seem set on making a significant addition to their pitching staff regardless.