Yankees’ Aaron Boone believes Corbin Burnes joining Orioles can be a ‘bit of a problem’

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Yankees needed Juan Soto this offseason. Their No. 1 goal was to improve the offense after finishing 19th in wRC+ and posting one of the worst statistical outputs the team has had in the past 20 years.

The Baltimore Orioles won the American League East by winning 101 games last season, but their lack of an ace in their starting rotation proved to be a detriment in October and led to them getting swept by the eventual World Series champion Texas Rangers. Baltimore’s No. 1 goal this offseason was to acquire Corbin Burnes, the best pitcher available via trade. They did just that Thursday after sending pitcher DL Hall, shortstop Joey Ortiz and a Competitive Balance Round A pick (No. 34 selection) to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Orioles now have three top-of-the-line starters with Burnes, Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez, a trio who can stack up with any rotation across MLB. The Orioles acquiring Burnes certainly puts a dent in the ground the Yankees made up this offseason by acquiring Soto.

“That can be a little bit of a problem,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Saturday at Pinstripe Pride, an autograph signing held at New Jersey’s American Dream mall. “That was my first reaction. He’s obviously an amazing pitcher going to a great team. We’ll see a lot of him and look forward to competing against the best, though.”

The Yankees were interested in adding Burnes to their rotation, but they backed off because they believed Milwaukee’s asking price was too high. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had already traded a significant amount of depth to land Soto and outfielders Trent Grisham and Alex Verdugo this offseason. While the Yankees’ farm system is highly regarded throughout the industry, it’s no comparison to what the Orioles have; this move by Baltimore barely impacted its depth.

Now the Yankees have to worry about a perennial Cy Young Award contender on the reigning division champions. Burnes held the Yankees hitless through eight scoreless innings last September in his lone career start against the Bronx Bombers. But Boone believes the Yankees’ rotation, after adding Marcus Stroman, can be just as dominant as what the Orioles project to be this coming season.

Corbin Burnes threw eight scoreless innings without allowing a hit against the Yankees on Sept. 10. (Wendell Cruz / USA Today)

“With health, I think we’re going to be really good,” Boone said. “But it’s early February. We got a long way to go. I’m excited about some of the depth we’ve replenished and guys pushing up. I think there are going to be some people that surprise there. I’m really excited about some of the guys, like Carlos (Rodón) and Nestor (Cortes) coming off injury-riddled seasons. I’m excited about the winters those guys are having and where they’re at. Bringing in Marcus — we feel like (the rotation) has a chance to be really good, but we gotta go make it happen.”

Entering spring training last year, there was some belief that the Yankees could have the best starting rotation in MLB. But that hope quickly faded after Frankie Montas required shoulder surgery, Rodón’s season debut was delayed until July because of forearm and back injuries, and Luis Severino strained his lat. Three-fifths of the team’s expected rotation was unavailable to begin last season. This year, the Yankees are one injury away from Luke Weaver, who has a 5.14 career ERA, possibly starting games.

It’s a precarious position for the Yankees, but they believe in the depth they have with prospects Will Warren, Clayton Beeter and Chase Hampton on the cusp of making their MLB debuts, plus other fringe guys like Luis Gil, Yoendrys Gómez, Cody Poteet and Cody Morris. Both Jhony Brito and Randy Vásquez came out of nowhere last spring and made an impact when called upon; the Yankees believe it can happen again if they need it with the group they have. But there’s no doubt that if Rodón and Cortes can pitch to their expectations and stay healthy, the Yankees could match up with any rotation in baseball.

“I think it’s going to be a great year for the Yankees pitching staff,” catcher Austin Wells said.

(Photo of Aaron Boone: Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)

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