There’s a reason the Cubs have tried to avoid going to the arbitration table with eligible players and it’s because the process sucks. How stupid is it to go in front of someone and explain why your employee is bad and shouldn’t earn more money even though that employee is among the best in the world at what he does? I mean, imagine having to justify not paying a perennial Cy Young contender another $740,000.
You don’t have to imagine it because that’s exactly what the Brewers did with Corbin Burnes, who was named the NL’s best pitcher in 2021 and finished sixth and seventh in ’20 and ’22, respectively. The righty settled last year for $6.5 million and filed at $10.75 million for this year, which is a tremendous bargain for a pitcher of his caliber even if looks like a big raise from a percentage standpoint. If you remove context, anyway.
Rather than coming up from their filing figure of $10.01 million, the cheapskate Brewers fought their star and ended up winning the battle. The war might be a different story, however, as Burnes was left feeling somewhat betrayed by the process.
“Had the [arbitration hearing] all day Tuesday, spent Valentine’s Day on a plane,” Corbin Burnes told MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. “Got home at 10, 11 o’clock and got to see my wife before she fell asleep, so that was kinda how the Valentine’s Day went, so that was fun. But yeah, like I said, you kinda find out your true value. You think you work hard for seven years in the organization and five years with the big league team and you get in there, and basically they value you much different from what you thought you had contributed to winning as an organization.
“Obviously it’s tough to hear, it’s tough to take, but they’re trying to do what they can to win here. I think there was obviously other ways they could have gone about it and probably been a little more respectful with the way they went about it, but at the end of the day here we are.”
Here we are, indeed. Burnes still has one more year of club control remaining, but it’s hard to imagine him lasting that long in Milwaukee. While he may not demand a trade, there’s a smoldering bunch of lumber between player and team that may never be rebuilt. Given the Brewers’ track record, it makes sense for them to move Burnes like they did Josh Hader last season.
Every fear that going to an arbitration hearing against Corbin Burnes could harm his relationship with the Brewers was founded.
“There’s no denying that the relationship is definitely hurt from what [transpired],” Burnes said. pic.twitter.com/Xv8DFyiKde
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) February 16, 2023
It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Burnes moved at the deadline, particularly if Milwaukee isn’t firmly in the postseason hunt. At least then they won’t be able to blame him for not playing deeper into October.
“There’s no denying that the relationship is definitely hurt from what [transpired] over the last couple weeks, there’s really no way of getting around that,” Burnes continued. “We’re professionals and we’re gonna go out there and do our job and I’ll keep doing what I can every fifth day that I go out there.
“But when some of the things that are said, for instance, basically putting me at the forefront of the reason why we didn’t make the postseason last year…That’s something that probably doesn’t need to be said, we can go about a hearing without needing to do that.”
This isn’t meant to show that the Cubs do things the right way when it comes to arb hearings, though at least when they go to the table with a pitcher, it’s Justin Grimm. If there’s any way to tie this back to the Cubs, it’s that getting Burnes out of the division gives them that much more of a chance to pick up a few wins. Or rather, it just means the Brewers are that much worse. Now watch the Dodgers or Mets land him.