According to Todd Zolecki and multiple media outlets, the Phillies and free agent pitcher AJ Burnett have agreed to a 1 year $16 million deal. The final details of the contract have yet to be released but there are now reports that the deal includes an option for 2015 and a limited no trade clause. The 37 year old right hander spent the last 2 seasons pitching at the other end of the state and has also pitched for the Yankees and Blue Jays.
Burrnett's impact on recent Phillies history is probably something we would all like to forget, as he was a key member of the 2009 Yankees team that beat the Phillies in the World Series. Though the Phillies were able to get to AJ in game 5, he pitched masterfully in game 2 as he out-dueled Pedro Martinez. But that may have been his only good moment in a Yankees uniform as he struggled the following 2 seasons before being shipped to Pittsburgh.
The change of scenery is exactly what he needed as he became a big reason for the turnaround the Pirates of had over the last 2 seasons. In 2012 he went 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA and last season he went just 10-11 despite a 3.30 ERA. You could say that the reason for his success was just getting out of a bad situation in New York but the major reason for the turnaround was his changed apporach.
Over just 2 seasons, he turned himself into one of the best ground ball pitchers in the game. In his 3 seasons with the Yankees, he had a GB% (Ground Ball percentage) of 42.8%, 44.9% and 49.2%. Then in 2012 with the Pirates he finished 4th in the NL a 56.9% GB% and finished 1st in the NL with 56.5.% in 2013. While the Bank may not be the band box people try to make it out to be, it is a hitter friendly park. So having any pitcher who can get ground ball after ground ball is a huge asset.
Last season Burnett finished 9th among National League starters with a 4.0 WAR (wins above replacement). The addition of Burnett gives the Phillies another solid pitcher to go with Lee and Hamels. The Phillies now have 3 starters who finished in the top 10 in WAR last season (Lee 4th, Hamels 8th, Burnett 9th). They are the only NL team to have more than one in the top 10.
In Pittsburgh, he was asked to the team's #1 and be the veteran presence in the rotation. Now in Philly he will likely be slotted in the #3 spot and will pitch behind 2 very savvy and experienced pitchers in Lee and Hamels (While it's concerning, I'm not that worried about Hamels. He may not be ready for Opening Day but it won't be long after. As of now he is just behind in his throwing program but it is something to watch).
Despite the fact that the think he is overpaid, Kendrick is a very reliable 4th/5th starter in this league. So that just leaves Hernandez and MAG's fighting for the final spot. If Gonzalez does turn out to be #3 like some scouts believe, the Phillies could have one of the bets rotations in baseball in 2014.
Personally, I love this move! It may be a high price to pay for #3 starter but getting him on a one year deal makes it worth it. Plus Burnett doesn't carry any draft pick compensation (like other FA starters Jimenez and Santana) because he didn't receive a qualifying offer. Some people may look at the Phillies roster and wonder what's the point in adding 5 wins to a 75 win team. While I see the point and I'm not buying my playoff tickets yet, it gets the team a little closer.
Now things don't have to go as perfect for them to contend. The deal doesn't hamper the future of this team while improving their present chances. I don't see what's wrong with that. We are not the one's signing the check and I highly doubt any other player of his caliber would have been signed in his place. Regardless of of whether or not the 2014 Phillies season end in the playoffs, signing Burnett virtually gurantee's a better 2014 product than without him and to me its worth the price tag!
Welcome to Philly Allen James Burnett!!!!