Are the Phillies trying to sign free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett? That seems to depend on who you ask.
Last Friday, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury implied that the Phillies were not serious contenders to sign Burnett. The basis for this report was a quote by Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro who sounded like he was done with his offseason shopping:
“I don’t suspect we’ll be doing anything,” he said Friday. “I think we’ve got what we’ve got. I suspect we’ll go into the season with what we’ve got – or at least spring training with what we’ve got. We’re always looking, always trolling. I know there are guys out there, but I don’t suspect us having anything major coming through.”
Just as Phillies fans were coming to terms with their likely starting rotation, on Monday Todd Zolecki rekindled hope that an upgrade might be on the way. He reported that sources indicated that the Phillies were still very much in the running to sign Burnett.
So who should we believe?
When it comes to baseball executives, I don’t trust much of what they say. It doesn’t do Amaro much good to announce that he’s in hot pursuit of a guy who could be an upgrade. Considering the few options left in free agency who could reasonably be considered upgrades (Burnett and Ubaldo Jimenez?), that doesn’t exactly help his negotiating power.
I also have trouble believing that Amaro is truly satisfied with how the rotation currently looks, especially considering his less than optimistic comments regarding Cuban Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. After all, this is a man who once said that a team can never have enough good starting pitching, and who once assembled a rotation with four aces.
Chances are, Amaro recognizes that Burnett would fill a huge hole in the rotation. The trouble is, he has to convince Burnett that Philadelphia is the right place for him, and also Phillies ownership which might be getting wary of reaching the luxury tax threshold with the team’s payroll.
With Spring Training about to start, Burnett will probably make his decision in the next few days. We’ll just have to wait and see if that decision results in him wearing red pinstripes.