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

What They’re Saying: A.J. Burnett to the Phillies?
January 29, 2014, 4:19 pm
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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.

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