Phillies: Top 5 worst free agent signings of the last decade
#2. AJ Burnett
Similar to that of Papelbon, the signing of AJ Burnett prior to the 2014 season reeked of desperation. Despite finishing fourth in the NL East the year prior, the Phillies seemed determined to buy their way back into relevancy. Still employing a rotation which consisted of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, the Phillies felt just *one* more starting pitcher might do the trick.
Just a few days before spring training was set to kick off, the Phillies agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Burnett. The contract was set to be worth $15 million, had a limited “no-trade clause”, and also included both a mutual and player option for the 2015 season.
This was a huge commitment for the Phillies at the time. The team had progressively gotten worse the last two seasons, and already employed one of the largest payrolls in all of baseball. Burnett added no sort of value in terms of the future, and his no-trade clause/high salary pretty much made him unmovable. If Burnett didn’t help tip the scales in the Phillies favor, it would simply be a wasted season.
Obviously, Burnett did not tip said scales. Just a few weeks into his Phillies career, it was revealed that he had a hernia injury. Forgoing surgery, Burnett opted for pain-relieving cortisone shots with the intention of pitching the entire season.
Burnett would proceed to make 34 starts for the Phillies in 2014. He finished the year with a 4.59 ERA and led the entire MLB in losses (18), earned runs (109), and walks (96). Truly a disastrous season.
Both Burnett and the Phillies would forego their options for the following season, and Burnett would return to Pittsburgh. Pitching in his final season, the 17 year pro would have the best year of his career, being selected to his first and only All-Star game. Good for him.