Superbowl Sunday didn’t stop the MLB hot stove from cooking. Since Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that the 37 year-old Burnett planned to pitch in 2014 this past Tuesday, the market for the pitcher has quickly developed.
The news that Burnett was coming back also came with the surprising news that he wasn’t for sure coming back to the Pirates, after a two-year stint in the Steel City that saw him average nearly 200 innings per seasons (196.55) and a 3.41 ERA. That reportedly made him very attractive to many teams around the league, but perhaps none more than the Pirates, Orioles, and Phillies, who are close to the Maryland area, where Burnett resides and apparently wants to play near.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe updated us on the Burnett sweepstakes yesterday morning, saying that it is expected to be a three team race, between the aforementioned teams.
1. A.J. Burnett, RHP, free agent — We mentioned last week that the Orioles could be the wild card for Burnett because he lives in Baltimore. And it’s really looking like a Baltimore-Philadelphia-Pittsburgh runoff for his services. Landing Burnett would be a coup for the Orioles, who need a top pitcher to compete with the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees. Of course, as in all things Orioles, it comes down to money. It also wouldn’t shock this reporter if the Yankees were trying to get Burnett back.
Burnett appears to be a candidate for a one-year deal, but giving a player option for a second season, wouldn’t necessarily scare me. As long as he stays healthy, he is going to give the Phillies a above-average middle of the rotation starter, who has postseason experience.
From the sounds of all that, he seems like a good addition. The problem is that he would likely put the Phillies over their luxury tax limit, and could hinder a guy like Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez from getting big-league experience. I’d take Burnett over Gonzalez ten times out of ten, because you know what you are getting with him, but the Phillies gave Gonzalez $12 Million over the next two seasons. They didn’t do that for him to pitch in the minor leagues, or out of the bullpen.
Gonzalez could still be the fifth starter, but I get the sick feeling that the Phillies plan to give that spot to Robert Hernandez (the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona) rather than a guy like Gonzalez or Jonathan Pettibone.
I still think that both the Pirates and the the Orioles (reportedly going “all in” to sign Burnett) likely give him a better situation than the Phillies do, because in those cases he has a chance to pitch for a team that figures to be a playoff contender. In Philadelphia, it would take a lot for Burnett, who may very well be pitching in his final big-league season, to even sniff the playoffs.