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Corbin Burnes Says Relationship with Brewers 'Definitely Hurt' After Contract Talks

Adam WellsFebruary 16, 2023

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 24: Corbin Burnes #39 of the Milwaukee Brewers walks across the field in the fourth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on September 24, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Milwaukee Brewers damaged the relationship with their best player by choosing to go to salary arbitration instead of trying to iron out a contract.

Speaking to reporters at Brewers' spring training, Corbin Burnes said his relationship with the team is "definitely hurt" from what happened during his arbitration hearing.

Adam McCalvy @AdamMcCalvy

Every fear that going to an arbitration hearing against Corbin Burnes could harm his relationship with the Brewers was founded. <br><br>"There's no denying that the relationship is definitely hurt from what [transpired]," Burnes said. <a href="https://t.co/Xv8DFyiKde">pic.twitter.com/Xv8DFyiKde</a>

MLB.com's Adam McCalvy added the Brewers attempted add a team or mutual option for next season to Burnes' 2023 contract that he and his camp considered a "pretty poor" offer.

On Wednesday, McCalvy reported Milwaukee won its arbitration case against Burnes and will pay him $10.01 million this season. The 2021 National League Cy Young winner was seeking $10.75 million.

One of the biggest problems Burnes had with the Brewers' arbitration presentation was "basically putting me in the forefront of why we didn't make it to the postseason last year."

Burnes did struggle in the second half of the 2022 season. He looked like he was on his way to a second consecutive NL Cy Young in the first half with a 2.14 ERA, 0.897 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 113.2 innings.

After the All-Star break, Burnes had a 3.97 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 99 strikeouts in 88.1 innings over 15 starts. Those numbers were inflated by two bad starts at the end of August when he gave up nine earned runs in 9.2 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates.

There were plenty of reasons beyond Burnes' modest struggles that kept the Brewers out of the playoffs. Several of their players didn't seem thrilled that closer Josh Hader was traded to the San Diego Padres on Aug. 1 with the team in the middle of a pennant race.

Hader was in the midst of a rough stretch that that he didn't figure out until the playoffs. The left-hander had a 9.62 ERA in his final 29 appearances during the regular season between the Brewers and Padres.

In five playoff games with the Padres, Hader allowed just one hit with 10 strikeouts in 5.1 innings.

Hader publicly expressed his unhappiness with the arbitration process in 2020 when he lost his case with the Brewers. His frustration wasn't about the team so much as the "outdated" system in place to determine how much a player should be paid.

Since becoming a full-time starting pitcher in 2020, Burnes has been one of the best in baseball. He leads all pitchers in FanGraphs' wins above replacement (14.4) over the past three seasons. Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler is second on the list at 13.3 fWAR.

The Brewers finished 2022 with an 86-76 record, one game behind the Philadelphia Phillies for the final wild-card spot in the NL. It was the first time they missed the playoffs since 2017.

Burnes has two more years of team control remaining before he can become a free agent after the 2024 season.