There’s a reason why major league clubs don’t like to battle players in salary arbitration, and Milwaukee Brewers ace Corbin Burnes highlighted several of them Thursday.
The 2021 National League Cy Young Award winner lost his arbitration case against the Brewers, a third party awarding him $10.01 million for 2023, as the Brewers suggested, compared to the $10.75 million he sought.
Turns out the brawl over $749,000 was of the bare-knuckle variety.
Burnes told reporters Thursday that the Brewers essentially blamed him for the club missing the 2022 postseason, one year after his major league-leading 2.43 ERA and 1.63 fielding independent pitching helped claim the Cy Young and the Brewers the 2021 NL Central title.
“Basically putting me in the forefront of why we didn’t make it to the postseason last year,” Burnes told reporters in Phoenix, per MLB.com. “That’s something that probably doesn’t need be said.”
It’s also curious that an arbitrator would buy that line of thinking.
Sure, Burnes saw his ERA and FIP both worsen (to 2.94 and 3.14, respectively), but he also contributed more to the Brewers, theoretically. In 2021, Burnes, who was unvaccinated, missed time on the COVID-19 injured list and made just 28 starts. It’s just that he was so good in them – his adjusted ERA of 170 also led the majors – that he could not be denied the Cy Young Award.
MLB arbitration’s inherent conflict
In 2022, his numbers were understandably a bit less shiny – but also because he pitched more. Burnes tossed 202 innings compared to 167 in his Cy Young year, and led the NL in strikeouts, with 243. Ask any team if they’d rather have the Burnes of ’21 or ’22 and it might be a coin toss, depending on exactly what the team needs.
But salary arbitration is a capricious process, during which clubs and players with at least three but less than six years of service time (along with a handful of more experienced second-year players) aim to strike an agreement. The salary levels are heavily based on recent precedent, and value can greatly increase with an award such as a Cy Young on the docket.
With four years of service time, Burnes is due to go through that wringer one more time next winter before he hits free agency – unless the Brewers trade him first.
If nothing else, add him to the list of players whose relationships with their clubs won’t be the same after picking each other apart.
“You learn your true value in the organization,” says Burnes.
Story Credit: usatoday.com