Potential Offseason Target: A.J. Burnett
By Mike Lacy
Image Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Key 2013 stats: 10-11 W-L, 3.30 ERA, 209 K, 67 BB
Burnett is a 15 year veteran who has pitched for four different teams. His career seemed to be on the skids after signing an immense free agent contract with the Yankees in 2009 and then failing to live up to expectations. He experienced an unexpected late-career resurgence after being traded to the Pirates in 2012. He was arguably the best starter on Pittsburgh’s division winning 2013 team.
Why He Might be a Good Fit
The Phillies are in need of dependable starting pitching, and Burnett would provide them with a reliable veteran presence. Despite his advanced age, Burnett’s stuff does not appear to be diminished. He led the National League in strikeouts per nine innings in 2013, and can also induce ground balls. Those are two qualities that are crucial when pitching in Citizens Bank Park.
Why He Might Not be a Good Fit
Based on the way the free agent market has gone, signing a pitcher of Burnett’s caliber is probably require at least $14 million per year. That’s a lot of money for the Phillies to spend on a third starter, especially one who has dealt with injuries throughout his career. There are also indications that he either wants to remain in Pittsburgh or retire.
I feel Burnett is similar in fit to Bronson Arroyo as both are perfectly adequate middle of the rotation starters. They’ll give you a lot of quality starts, and they’ll be a solid component of an above average rotation. But if either one of them is being counted on as your third best starter, then your rotation is not going to be a team carrying strength. Considering the amount of money the Phillies would then have invested in their starting rotation, they pretty much need the rotation to help carry the team.
Unless the Phillies can get Burnett for a lower than market value price, I would look elsewhere to bolster the rotation.