Corbin Burnes of the Milwaukee Brewers may be the most clearly-marked "ace" remaining on the open market (though to what extent he's actually available, no one really knows). The Yankees, a team that once intended to pay Yoshinobu Yamamoto $300 million and worry about the implications later, still have a glaring need in the rotation slot just behind Gerrit Cole.
But just because slotting Burnes into the open position would be a "perfect" on-field fit does not mean the Yankees should -- or even have the ability to -- execute a trade.
In most instances this offseason, trading for/extending Juan Soto feels preferable to whatever hypothetical follow-up move gets pitched. Further depleting the team's prospect capital in a Burnes trade, then extending the 29-year-old Brewer for $250+ million, represents another such maneuver.
The Yankees were willing to go to unprecedented lengths to woo the 25-year-old Yamamoto. After all, an all-world talent almost never hits the open market, especially not at that age. The unique circumstances of the right-hander's arrival meant that he would receive a massive commitment, despite a blank slate on U.S. soil. After all, no interested team was flying blind. Unlike the days of Hideki Irabu, all scouts had extensive pitch shape data and hands-on World Baseball Classic experience. New York had designs on front-loading a Yamamoto package years ago, well before Soto came into the picture, and managed to up their bidding to $300 million when they witnessed the market unfold. The idea was that Soto, extension or not, was worth depleting their pitching depth in the upper minors, and that Yamamoto was a surer thing than any of the arms they'd be surrendering.
Things didn't work out that way, and the best-laid plans of Brian Cashman have turned to semi-regulated mush. But trading for Burnes -- even in a "win now" year -- would take the team's upper-crust pitching talent far below a comfortable level. Factor in the forthcoming cash, and avoiding a double-charge for Burnes feels like a no-brainer.
Yankees cannot afford Corbin Burnes trade with Brewers
Kudos to Bleacher Report for naming the Yankees as Burnes' "best fit," but while that might be true in a vacuum, the possibility just doesn't seem reasonable entering 2024.
Any Burnes conversations would start with either Jasson Dominguez or Spencer Jones, and would end immediately without their inclusion. Everson Pereira and Oswald Peraza are top-100 talents who've failed to gain footing at the big-league level thus far. They're also swiftly becoming, in Yankees circles, the modern day Miguel Andújar and Clint Frazier.
Rule of thumb for the fandom: If you're readily willing to give someone up to acquire a star, the team with the star isn't willing to start a package there. Every team values prospects differently, but no one values them worse than Yankee fans trying to swing trades on the internet.
Beyond Dominguez/Jones, the Yankees will undoubtedly have to pull from their pitching reserves again, with essential names like Will Warren and Chase Hampton dangling in the breeze. Beyond Cole and a hypothetical Burnes addition, there is far too much uncertainty in New York's rotation -- in both the short- and long-term -- to make that palatable.
Pitching prospects break, which is why dealing them for Soto was a no-brainer. The deal did back the Yankees into a corner, though, as extending the slugger is now essential, while dealing more prospect capital from a position of weakness feels foolish. Brian Cashman should save his cash for Jordan Montgomery and Co., and should reevaluate the pursuit of Burnes next offseason once Soto's settled, one way or another.
Burnes is a Scott Boras client. He, too, will wait.