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

Jan 29, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT


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,

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.

  1. Sleezy Baby - Jan 29, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    The phillies are delaying the inevitable if they sign aj. They are old and RAJ needs to accept that they are no longer the same team. The truth is they probably wont be good enough this year to contend and this will be realized by the trade deadline. If by some miracle they are good, they may be in the running for the 2nd wildcard slot but then they play the braves or nationals who are most certainly better. If you beat them, and thats a big if, then you have the joy of playing either the dodgers or cardinals who are both stacked with talent.
    Since RAJ has his head up his arse, he thought they might be able to contend this year and signed Byrd. Mistake.
    It took the eagles about 3-4 years to be able to contend again with youth, it will probably take the same amount.
    RAJ has to realize that utley, rollins, and howard are no longer the future of the team. They gave us great years but its time to move on.

    • Chief - Jan 29, 2014 at 5:07 PM

      Rollins’ contract is up at the end of this year. Utley is done after 2016. Howard’s in 2017. After 2017, Hamels’ is the only guy on the books.

      • Sleezy Baby - Jan 29, 2014 at 7:45 PM

        So three more years of mediocrity.

      • Bender - Jan 30, 2014 at 12:16 PM

        Rollins has a easily obtainable vesting option for next year, so his contract is likely not off the books. Utley also has vesting options for 2017 and 2018 which he could meet as long as he remains healthy. The Phillies aren’t quite clear of the old guard yet.

      • Jactaid - Feb 11, 2014 at 3:02 PM

        Rollins and Adams have player options in 2015. Lee and Byrd have player options in 2016. Howard and Ruiz are club options for 2017 while Gonzalez is a vesting option for 2017. Utley’s contract allows for a 2016-2018 player option, with Hamels having a player option for 2019.

    • Krod Mandoon - Jan 29, 2014 at 5:25 PM

      I agree with most of what you say. At the same time, I would be fine with signing Burnett. It’s not my money and I’m sure it would only be a one year deal. If the Phillies are out of it come July, Burnett becomes a perfect trade candidate if he’s anywhere near as good as he has been the past 2 seasons.

      • PhillyTu - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:26 AM

        Definitely go after him. It’s doable. While I understand everyone’s frustrations and constant negativity, this move would provide a legitimate shot at a wild card spot. And should by some miracle they get to the NLDS, the threesome of Lee, Hamels and Burnett can be formidable. Anything can happen in the playoffs.

        At the same time, they need an infusion of youth. I’d like to see more of Cesar Hernandez. I would take his glove and BA over Mayberry and Frandsen. The bench should include Hernandez, Galvis, Ruf…and maybe Abreu as a version of Matt Stairs.

        It’s their SP in the minors that’s the biggest depth problem. Burnett would buy them time. Not so sure about Hernandez. MAG needs time, as does Petitbone. Petitbone needs to show more than just 5 innings worth. I was hoping for Adam Morgan has year, but it’s a shame about the injuries. He needs time. Biddle needs time too.

        2014 may be a farewell tour for KK, Papelbon and Lee.

    • PhillyTu - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:48 AM

      If the miracle of making the playoffs happens, I wouldn’t count us out. On paper, we were the best team in 2011. That’s why you play the games, I guess. Otherwise, if there’s no chance in hell, then why bother?

      At the very least, with Burnette, this team is watchable. There’s always the July trade deadline.

  2. will - Jan 29, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    bill baer is a tool.

    • Bill Baer - Jan 29, 2014 at 5:25 PM

      fuck that guy

      • will - Jan 29, 2014 at 5:58 PM


  3. willh888 - Jan 29, 2014 at 5:40 PM

    Does anyone want to slap themselves knowing AJ Burnett would make more than David Price

  4. Jason R. - Jan 29, 2014 at 6:08 PM

    Do this, pray he’s 8-5 with a sub-4 ERA in July, trade him to a contender.

    A one year deal feels a lot like the rebuilding “expiring contract” in the NBA. Keeps them watchable this year, gives them flexibility to rebuild next year. At this point it’s obvious this isn’t the year they’re burning it down, maybe next year *sigh*

    • charlie d - Jan 29, 2014 at 8:41 PM

      I smell a Hunter Pence deal coming….pay too much to get him and give him up for too little.

      • Mostel - Jan 30, 2014 at 5:37 AM

        The Ruben way!

      • Lars - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:46 AM

        Ruben would walk into a Wawa and pay cash for the sub that they just dropped on the floor.

    • Scott B - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:51 AM

      @Lars. Not so much a sub that dropped on the floor but one that was beyond its expiration date. By like 3 years.

  5. PhilsPhanin VA - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    If we’re looking, why not check out Bronson Arroyo???

  6. jd - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    So, I’m of the feeling not to do this. Yes, Burnett might make you a bit better, and if they hadn’t done Byrd or even Chooch, then adding one old guy would make more sense. We might as well find out what we have in MAG and Pettibone. BTW. So the only way to access now is through article links. Seems they’ve gone pure pay now.

    • PhillyTu - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      The wait and see attitude didn’t work out so well last year with Halladay or Howard. They should’ve gotten more depth in the offseason. Since they’re not fully committed to rebuilding, why not just go for it? MAG will not be ready. He can be better served in the bullpen or the minors. MAG hopefully can replace KK in the rotation next year – I think that’s a more realistic goal for him.

      I’m looking forward to a decent bullpen, with or without Adams.

      • willh888 - Jan 30, 2014 at 11:10 AM

        wait and see worked with Howard when they shipped off Thome, or when Utley finally took over for Polanco after he was traded. It worked for that rotation in 2008 with literally one good pitcher to talk about. Worked out well when people raised their eyebrows at Lidge for Bourn, but in my eyes the Phils don’t win the WS without Brad’s perfect season. I’m just saying sometimes it works out, and obviously it doesn’t. I’d much rather take a chance with Gonzalez or Pettibone over a 15 mil Burnett.. hell even give ethan martin another crack at it. Make that Victorino trade not completely worthless.

        And maybe I’m not as high on the BP as you. Brad Lincoln might be the only intriguing addition and he walked almost as many batters as k’s last year

    • PhillyTu - Jan 30, 2014 at 12:13 PM

      In “Wait and See”, I was referring to injured players like Halladay and Howard. You cited MAG and Petitbone. MAG’s value went down because of his physical. Petitbone had an injury at the end of last season. Plus, I think he needs to show more than 5 innings of baseball. I would love for those guys to do well, but you can’t count on their recovery. Same goes with Adams. It was a mistake to assume Halladay and Howard would be fine. Obviously, Utley did all right.

      As for your other comments, I’m fine with taking risks, moving veterans for youth. All that is cyclical and necessary.

      Yes, sometimes things work out, and sometimes they don’t, but you’d think a GM wouldn’t just go on blind faith without some semblance of a back up plan. Our problem these last two years has been depth. When guys got hurt, no one in the minors was ready to take their spot. There hasn’t been enough talent and development in AAA. Hopefully that changes soon, but in the meantime they need to buy some time. Burnett for one year seems like a good deal. Hell, it’s not my money. If that money’s not spent, where do you think that’s going to go, profits for the owners? I’d rather see it spent on the roster.

  7. TheDude - Feb 11, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    The latest news has three horses for Burnett: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington.

    The Bucs really want him back and they’re expected to be the favorite to land him for the 2014 season.

    Amaro has been said to be playing coy about their pursuit of Burnett with the media, but the Phillies know they can slide him behind Hamels and in front of Kendrick as the #3 guy and it’d be a big upgrade.

    MLB Network this morning has Washington re-juggling their SP to get him in as a fourth/fifth starter on their already overwhelming rotation (RHP Stephen Strasburg, LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Jordan Zimmermann, RHP Doug Fister, LHP Ross Detwiler). They’re still considered the dark horse of the three to land him, but that would be a frightening line-up to face over the course of the season.


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