The arbitration hearing between Corbin Burnes and the Brewers took place on Tuesday, and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported on Wednesday evening that the arbiter ruled in favor of the team. Burnes will play on a $10.01 million salary in 2023.
The Brewers have won their arbitration case against Corbin Burnes, per source. He will earn $10.01M this season rather than the $10.75M he filed for.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) February 16, 2023
Burnes was the lone member of Milwaukee’s large arbitration class not to reach an agreement with the team on a new contract. Upon January 13’s deadline for exchanging figures, the Brewers filed for $10.01 million and $10.75 million.
That difference of about $740K means next to nothing in the grand scheme of the team’s financial situation, leading observers to question why the Brewers were unwilling to meet Burnes’ figure before the case went to a hearing.
The reality is that the decision to go to arbitration had nothing to do with saving a quick buck on the team’s best pitcher for one season. Instead, it is a product of a questionable system that determines player salaries throughout their last few seasons before free agency.
Arbitration does not reward players with fair market value contracts. If that were the case, Burnes would have asked for and received a salary north of $30 million for 2023. Cases are built on outdated statistics and comparisons to similar players at the same positions. In Burnes’ case, both sides compared him to similarly elite starters in terms of performance and the kind of arbitration contracts they received.
Burnes filed for what would have been a new record salary for a starting pitcher in his second year of arbitration. Shane Bieber set the current record in January when he signed a $10.01 million contract with the Cleveland Guardians to avoid arbitration. It’s not a coincidence that the Brewers filed for exactly that figure.
Given that he owns the lowest ERA among qualified starters since 2020 and is fresh off a season in which he made 33 starts and threw 202 innings, filing for a new record was a sensible gamble by Burnes’ camp. However, the Brewers understood that the system favors teams and took advantage of that. Most teams do not want to blow up a favorable system by willingly agreeing to a record-setting contract, and the Brewers are no different.
While the sides waited for the verdict, Brewers GM Matt Arnold told Adam McCalvy that they tried to reach an agreement, but he respected Burnes’ right to aim higher in front of a judge. He also praised Burnes as a team leader.
Brewers GM Matt Arnold on Corbin Burnes and arbitration as the sides were awaiting a ruling: pic.twitter.com/aCbqt46c79— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) February 16, 2023
Burnes is expected to comment when he reports to spring training on Thursday.