What They’re Saying: A.J. Burnett to the Phillies?

What They’re Saying: A.J. Burnett to the Phillies?

Reports indicate free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett will return to pitch a 16th season in the big leagues, which immediately led to speculation that the two-time World Series champion could be a fit for the Philadelphia Phillies. After all, he is 37.

Not unlike the Bobby Abreu signing from last week though, there is a case to be made that Burnett would indeed help the Fightins. Sure, he’s getting up there in years, but general manager Ruben Amaro has said multiple times that he would like to shore up the starting rotation by adding one more proven hand. Might as well kick the tires at least.

Burnett posted a 10-11 record with a 3.30 ERA in 30 starts for the Pirates last season, leading the National League with 9.848 strikes out per nine innings, so it looks like there could be something left in the tank. What do baseball scribes have to say on the matter?

Jim Salisbury, CSNPhilly.com

The Phillies would make sense -- for both parties. The team is in need of starting pitching depth, and Burnett, who performed well and enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh the last two seasons, reportedly prefers to stay relatively close to his Baltimore-area home.

The plusses of adding Burnett are apparent. He’s a durable veteran who gets ground balls and registers strong strikeout totals. He’d be a big right-handed arm to complement lefties Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.

Burnett made $16.5 million last season, with the Yankees picking up $8.5 million of the tab. After making 61 starts and posting a 3.41 ERA the last two seasons, it’s difficult to imagine Burnett taking much less than $16.5 million to pitch in 2014.

Ryan Lawrence, Daily News

If a last-minute move for a pitcher fits into the payroll, does it fit into the pitching staff?

The current rotation features three locks - Hamels, Lee and Kyle Kendrick - and since Amaro signed Hernandez to be a starter, we'll up that to four for argument's sake.

Cuban import Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (in the first year of a 3-year, $12 million deal) would figure to have an edge on Jonathan Pettibone for the fifth spot, but neither is guaranteed the job, either. Some have even suggested that Gonzalez, who hasn't pitched competitively in 2 years, could even wind up as a late-inning reliever.

Matt Gelb, Inquirer

There are connections between the Phillies and Burnett. His agent is Darek Braunecker, the same man who represents Lee. Burnett is neighbors and close family friends with Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock. Braunecker and Proefrock have a strong working relationship.

The dilemma for the Phillies is whether a high-priced acquisition of Burnett launches them firmly into contention or just slightly moves the needle for a team that won 73 games in 2013 and added around the edges of its roster this winter.

Corey Seidman, Beerleaguer

His WHIP was 1.23 and his opponents had a .306 on-base percentage. Burnett had a ground-ball rate of 56.7%, which was second-best in the majors to Trevor Cahill.

Burnett's ability to strike batters out and keep the ball on the ground make him extremely effective in high-pressure situations.

There's a lot of uncertainty regarding Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. If the Phillies were to give Burnett a one-year deal worth, say, $12 million, they could ease Gonzalez into the majors as a setup man, thereby strengthening their bullpen and preparing him for the rotation in 2015, when Kyle Kendrick may be gone.

Bill Baer, Crashburn Alley

Could the Phillies get Burnett for an average annual value of $15 million? Although he did not receive a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Pirates, he earned $16.5 million last season and although he was a flip of a coin away from retirement, he is coming off of a season in which he posted a 3.39 ERA in 191 innings at the age of 36. And, don’t forget, the Phillies will be bidding against at least two other teams, maybe more. It’ll be tough.

The Phillies could free up some space by cutting Mayberry during spring training. He and the Phillies agreed on a $1.5875 million salary to avoid arbitration. It, like the scores of others earned in a similar fashion recently, is not guaranteed. If the Phillies cut him, they would only owe him either 30 or 45 days’ pay, depending on when the decision is made. But that’s about the only payroll flexibility the Phillies could create. They would have to be able to grab Burnett at about $15 million on a one-year deal, otherwise they simply don’t have the space.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).