If you needed an answer on whether the 25-25 Phillies, currently owners of the worst record in the National league, were ready to rebuild, I think Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe gave you that answer this morning.
1. The Phillies have made it known that anyone on their roster is for sale.
Fair enough. The general problem with the Phillies being able to rebuild isn’t that they aren’t willing to move some of the players on their roster, it’s that the ones who had value-Cliff Lee and Mike Adams-are injured, and a majority of the rest of the players on the team have extremely team unfriendly deals.
One player who I think could be tough to move is A.J. Burnett. Burnett was pitching up to his $16 million salary in April when he posted a 2.15 ERA, and was even dominant in early May after deciding to pitch through a hernia. Since then, I don’t know if the hernia has caught up with Burnett or not, but the fact that his ERA for the season has crept up to 4.41 hasn’t helped his trade value.
An MLB scout told Cafardo that teams ‘wouldn’t ‘touch him’ right now.
2. A.J. Burnett, RHP, Phillies — This is a veteran contending teams are looking at as a possible add-on, but the common complaint, said one AL scout, is “if he doesn’t pitch better he’ll be another guy the Phillies are stuck with. When he’s the A.J. we saw earlier in the year or last year, he’s a guy you want out there in a tough situation. Right now, you wouldn’t touch him.” In his last six starts he has a 7.25 ERA, after being 2.06 in his first seven starts.
Even if Burnett does turn things around before the deadline, he is going to be extremely difficult to move. If he decides he wants to keep pitching next year, then he has a mutual option for $15 million with whatever team he pitches for. While the team can decline that, Burnett has a $7.5 million player option for 2015, that whatever team he is playing for, can’t decline. If teams are hesitant to even add Burnett on for the remainder of the season, then that option would scare the hell out of them.
Even if the Phillies can find a trade partner to send Burnett to, his limited no-trade clause might hinder any deal from getting done. Prior to this season, Burnett was only willing to negotiate with the Phillies, Pirates and Orioles, as he wished to remain close to his Maryland home. While Burnett doesn’t have a full no-trade clause (it’s assumed he can block trades to 21 teams), he could list the Pirates and Orioles, and then find seven other teams that would have no interest in trading for him, and list them as the teams he would be willing to accept a trade to. That way, either Burnett goes to one of those two teams, or he likely stays put. It’s hard to imagine knowing that, his trade value would be very high.
Burnett may end up being someone that the Phillies waive in August, and can try to dump off on a team that claims him. Even then, his $7.5 million player option for 2015 will remain an obstacle.