A source close to Burnett is telling anyone who will listen right now that Burnett plans to pitch in in 2014. And the Phillies’ name just keeps coming up.
It’s uncertain whether Burnett still has his sights on Pittsburgh or is willing to consider other suitors. The Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles are among the other MLB clubs that have expressed varying degrees of interest in the veteran right-hander, according to sources.
The revelation that veteran righthander A.J. Burnett intends to pitch in 2014 will not send shock waves through the industry because many top free-agent pitchers remain unsigned. But Burnett comes with special interest to the Phillies, who have liked the 37-year-old pitcher in the past and need a mid-rotation starter.
Burnett will test the market, according to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report. He posted a 3.30 ERA in 30 starts for the Pirates last season and anchored one of the most surprising rotations in baseball. If he is signed by the Phillies, he would slot behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee to strengthen a rotation shrouded in mystery.
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.
As a righthander, Burnett could also slide into one of the top spots in the rotation if the Phillies wanted to break up their two left-handers.
Burnett also has a connection to one of the Phillies chief free agent negotiators.
Burnett is a neighbor and friend of Phils assistant general manager Scott Proefrock; both live in suburban Baltimore. Burnett’s agent is Darek Braunecker, who also represents Cliff Lee.
Sure, it’s a terrific idea for the Phillies to sign free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett. He might just be a perfect fit. In fact, Burnett might make them a playoff team.
That’s a tougher call, because maybe 13 of the 15 National League teams believe they’re good enough to make the postseason. Plenty of things have to go right for the Phillies, but that’s true of a lot of other teams, too.
JESUS CHRIST. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the A.J. Burnett surrogates. Perhaps it’s just an obvious fit, but there’s a lot of fluffy fun time smoke here.
Signing Burnett, who has been very good in his last two seasons with the Pirates (3.51 and 3.30 ERAs, 389 total strikeouts), to a one-year deal would make sense, provided the Phils could stay under the $189 million luxury tax threshold (they’re at around $173 million now). They’re not shaping up to be very good, so, as I wrote the other day, why not stockpile aging vets to keep the team at least somewhat competitive?
But the tone of these reports certainly makes it seems as though someone in Burnett’s camp is feeding the story. Justice wrote an entire article about how… wait for it… Burnett could make the Phillies contenders in 2014. That’s excusable enough, since just about any team can contend to make the playoffs nowadays, but these lines are just whack:
Around the game, these old guys were known not just for producing, but for competing hard every single day. In the long history of the Phils, these old guys are going to be as highly regarded as any era of the past.
And the truth is that none of us know what they have left in the tank. Howard has played 151 games the last two seasons. He hit just .173 against left-handed pitching in both 2012 and ’13.
The Phillies were a bad offensive team in 2013 — 13th in the NL in runs, 14th in walks, ninth in home runs — and they desperately need another big season from their big guy.
Let’s just say the Phils are hopeful. Howard is again healthy, and he could change the look of that lineup.
Likewise for Rollins. He’s in his free-agent year and beginning his 15th season with Philadelphia. In those 15 years, Rollins has been about as entertaining and as productive as any player they’ve had.
Rollins is also 35 years old but coming off a season in which he had 36 doubles, 59 walks and 22 stolen bases. He has batted only .251 the last two seasons, but if he repeats his 2013 numbers in ’14 and if Howard does his thing, the Phillies could be dramatically better on offense.
Translation: The Phillies try hard. They were liked. The sun came up over the tree and then it didn’t. Ryan Howard will somehow have a late career resurgence and figure out how to hit left-handed pitching. Rollins, who, at 34, had his worst season ever last year, might hit a lot of doubles because he’s entertaining. Therefore, the Phillies could be dramatically better on offense. Better add Burnett to put them over the hump.
I’d love to be wrong and eat tons and tons of crow on this. But I just don’t see it.