What Orioles' addition of Corbin Burnes tells us about their plan — and promise

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The Baltimore Orioles have finally filled their biggest need: A true ace.

On Thursday evening, the Orioles acquired Corbin Burnes. A Cy Young Winner, a three-time All-Star and a top-10 finisher for the Cy Young Award in every one of his full big-league seasons.

This seems like the perfect fit at the perfect time, and it sent a shockwave through the baseball world after a quiet few months.

To many, this move came as a surprise. To those who are well-versed in the history of Orioles general manager Mike Elias, this move comes as no surprise at all.

For a year and a half, I have been begging the Orioles to add a true No. 1 starter. More specifically, since the day Adley Rutschman, at the time the No. 1 prospect in baseball, was called up and turned the franchise around. 

On May 21st, 2022, the Orioles were 16-24 after going 52-110 in 2021 and losing more than 100 games each of the three prior full seasons. 

That day is an important day in the history of the Orioles. It’s the day Rutschman was called up. From that point on, the Orioles went 67-54 that season and found themselves in the playoff hunt until the last weekend of the year. 

With many other top prospects on the doorstep, it became obvious that the Orioles might just be on the cusp of greatness. 

During that offseason, I begged the O’s to pick up a star pitcher. Much to my chagrin, they didn’t do it. 

GM Mike Elias stayed the course.

[Kavner: With Corbin Burnes addition, are Orioles now AL favorites?]

The course, of course, meant not adding much to the roster, but continuing to develop and call up prospects from baseball’s best farm system. 

The Orioles were poised for a turnaround, and their young talent is at the heart of that revival. If the 2023 season taught us anything, it’s that their prospects were worth the hype.

The Orioles went on to go 101-61 and were the No. 1 seed in the American League heading into the playoffs.

They were then swept by the eventual World-Series champion Texas Rangers in the ALDS, where we learned another thing about the 2023 season.

The Orioles desperately needed an ace. Still. 

But for GM Mike Elias, this was all part of the plan. A plan that he has seen work for the Houston Astros.

This is where things get wild. The similarities between the two organizations are uncanny. 

In 2012, when Elias joined the Astros, the organization was in the midst of a three-year stretch with more than 100 losses. The Orioles did so in 2018, 2019 and 2021. (They were 25-35 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.)

From there, the work began. High draft picks needed to be capitalized on and international signings needed to turn into big leaguers. 

They didn’t miss. 

Houston drafted, signed, and developed stars like Alex Bregman, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and Kyle Tucker.

In 2015, they finally started to show signs of improvement and they made the playoffs for the first time with their new core. That next season, they didn’t do anything rash. They stayed the course.

When Elias took the Orioles job, the franchise was in bad shape. But he had the recipe to turn it all around.

Good draft picks, signings, and development. 

In come Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez, Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, and Jackson Holliday. 

Baltimore Orioles’ holiday wishlist: extend Adley Rutschman & Gunnar Henderson

Back to the Astros. 

Then came 2017. The season in which the young core had already proven itself and it was finally time to add the perfect puzzle piece to pull it all together. 

In comes Justin Verlander, the now-three-time Cy Young Award winner, 2011 AL MVP winner and nine-time All Star who would help lead the Astros to their first-ever AL West title and eventually the 2017 World Series championship. 

The Orioles’ blueprint remains the same. 

When the young core that was built from within has proven itself, go get the piece that brings it all together. 

On Thursday evening, with the addition of Corbin Burnes, Mike Elias made the move that has been years in the making.

The Astros, as we all know, are now in the midst of one of the most dominant decades in the history of the sport.

The Orioles’ blueprint feels eerily similar, and they could be on the cusp of dominance for a long time to come.

Nobody knows if they will have the success of the Astros over the next decade. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they turned out even more successful.

The sky feels like the limit for the Baltimore Orioles, and that fan base should be absolutely ecstatic about the current state of the organization. 

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Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Bats” podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @BenVerlander.

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