Corbin Burnes has had a few weeks to cool off since losing his arbitration hearing, though, in talking to MLB Network’s Scott Braun, the former Cy Young winner seemed to be carrying plenty of resentment, still fuming over what amounted to a smear campaign.
“It’s the process that we go through. Once you get through the three minimum (salary) years, you get into arbitration. I don’t think anyone likes it,” the Brewers ace expressed during his podcast appearance Wednesday on Foul Territory. “As a player, we’ve earned the right to try and go and argue what we think we deserve. Obviously, what transpired with me, it was not ideal.”
Even after consulting with teammates who had been through similar negotiations, Burnes wasn’t prepared for how ugly things would get, with the Brewers going to elaborate lengths to diminish his value.
“I had spoken to [Josh] Hader a lot about it, going into it. He was a guy who went through it the previous year. Adrian Houser did as well, so I got to talk to him about it,” said Burnes, who struck out an NL-best 243 batters last season. “You kind of know what to expect going into it, knowing that the team’s going to do whatever they can to win their case and do what they can to make you look bad. And, obviously, that’s what happened.”
Burnes’ predicament sheds light on arbitration’s inherent flaws, pitting teams and players against each other, often over negligible sums, in this case, just $700,000. Now that Burnes knows how management really feels about him, it’s going to be hard for either side to move forward, creating an awkward dynamic within the Brewers’ locker room.
“I’m going to go out there, I’m still going to do my job. My job is to go out there every five days, give the best that I can, try to give us a chance to win. That’s not going to change,” said Burnes, who had been seeking a $10.75-million salary. “Everything became very public because of some of the stuff that was said. My goal was not to trash the Brewers or anyone that was involved in the arbitration process but more bring a light to what happened.”
Burnes seemed slightly more diplomatic in this interview than he did upon his arrival at spring training, where he lamented the Brewers’ ruthless tactics, including holding him responsible for Milwaukee missing the playoffs for the first time in five years. “They’re trying to do what they can to win a hearing, but I think there were other ways that they could have gone about it and probably been a little more respectful,” said Burnes at the time. “The relationship is definitely hurt from what [transpired] the last couple weeks.”
Rays reliever Ryan Thompson offered his perspective on the arbitration process in a recent Twitter thread, describing a broken system that puts players at a distinct disadvantage. Whether arbitration gets addressed in the next collective bargaining remains to be seen, though, in the meantime, Burnes will try to make the most of his opportunity with the Brewers, at least for his teammates’ sake.
“This is a process, as big-league players, we go through. Not everything is as good or happy as it sounds,” said Burnes, who has one year left of arbitration eligibility before his free agency in 2025. “My teammates know that I got their back, they got my back. Every five days I’m going out there and giving it everything and hopefully we’ll win a World Series.”
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