Breaking Down (Alleged) New White Sox Pitcher Corbin Burnes
In case you hadn't heard, some random dude named u/itbayly on Reddit claims that the White Sox have a deal in place for Corbin Burnes.
Will this become another in a long line of legendary names like KatyPerrysBootyhole or Wetbutt23 who have etched their name in White Sox lore for their honorable trade scoops in the past? The world may soon find out. But I'm not here to play reporter and tell you whether or not this scoop is legit. I'm here to breakdown Corbin Burnes as best as I can because I have absolutely nothing better to do.
Admittedly, I don't know a ton about Burnes. I don't catch many Brewers games and it seems like Woodruff and Hader are the arms that always garner the most attention. That being said, it's hard to look at his Statcast profile and be anything but impressed. The spin rates in particular are off the charts good.
Burnes had an absolutely terrible 2019 season (although he only pitched 49 innings) where he gave up an absurd 3.12 homers per 9 innings with his fastball. But a lot of the underlying projections would suggest that he was unlucky that year as well...like really unlucky. The dude had an 8.82 ERA with a 3.37 xFIP. For anybody who's not an analytics guru that is a MASSIVE difference. Now a lot of that can be traced back to his historically high HR/FB rate (xFIP is calculated by normalizing pitchers to a league average HR/FB rate), but a large portion of it can still be attributed to "bad luck". As a result he bounced back really nicely in 2020 sporting a 2.11 ERA and 2.99 xFIP so it's clear that he is trending in the right direction.
This change in 2020 appears to be the result of his massive spike in sinker and cutter usage. He pretty much abandoned his 4 seamer entirely and went from throwing 5% sinkers/cutters in 2019 to 65% in 2020. He's able to use those elite spin rate numbers to get significantly more break on these pitches, which helped him miss way more barrels in 2020. We can see it directly in his HR/FB rate dropping from 3.12 all the way down to 0.30 - a huge improvement. As long as he can continue to locate the sinker down in the zone, I think the sky is the limit for this kid. I personally LOVE sinkerballers because they induce a ton of weak contact which makes them fairly reliable from start to start. Think guys like Dallas Keuchel and Kyle Hendricks. The difference with Burnes is that his strikeout rate is basically double what those guys are putting up which makes him an extremely enticing player with a boatload of upside. It's not difficult to see why the White Sox would be interested in him.
Because of all that upside, I really think Burnes would cost a TON in a trade. He's clearly very talented and with the amount of control that he still has left on his deal (5 years) I really don't see the Brewers making this move if it doesn't include one of Vaughn/Kopech (which I would be hesitant to do). I've seen Madrigal floated as a potential headliner, but I don't really see the upside for the Brewers in that sort of a deal. Don't get me wrong, I love Madrigal and think he is going to be a major league contributor for a long time, but his upside is fairly low. You know what you're going to get from him: solid defense and a lot of singles. That's not going to be enough to headline a deal for Burnes imo.
Overall, I am not a fan of trading for starting pitching right now. Not only have they already dealt from prospect capital to go get Lance Lynn on a 1 year deal, but you have the reigning NL Cy Young winner still sitting out on the open market. Just go sign Trevor Bauer and call it a day. Even if he signs for $35 million AAV, that still would only put the Sox at #6 in the MLB in payroll this year. Go act like a big boy team and make it happen. No reason to deplete the farm system (and especially no reason to deplete the current big league roster) just to acquire a 3rd or 4th starting pitcher. Open up the checkbook Jerry.