The Philadelphia Phillies and starting pitcher A.J. Burnett have agreed to a one-year, $16 million deal, according to reports.
Burnett decided that he would pitch in 2014 on January 28, making his decision over retirement. Earlier in the offseason, he reportedly only wanted to go to a club in close proximity to his Maryland home, making the Orioles, Phillies, and Pirates the ideal teams to sign the hurler. The Pirates, however, only paid $8 million of Burnett's $16.5 million (other $8.5 million paid by Yankees) in 2013. They were unwilling to match the $16 million Burnett wanted, thus not giving him a qualifying offer.
Just a few days ago, the Orioles dropped out of the race, per reports. The Phillies also reportedly fell out of the race, but they returned when Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reported on his blog that the talks between the Phillies and the Pirates weren't done quite yet. Another thing to have noted is that the Phillies Assistant General Manager Scott Proefrock and Burnett are neighbors, and Burnett and other Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee share an agent.
The 37-year-old Burnett last pitched with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, going 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA and a 1.215 WHIP in 191 innings pitched (107 ERA+). Burnett led the National League in K/9 rate, posting a 9.8 mark. Over his past two years in Pittsburgh, Burnett has gone 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA and a 1.228 WHIP in 393 1/3 innings pitched (107 ERA+). He allowed 8.1 hits per nine innings while facing over 1,600 batters.
Burnett has had his ups and downs during his career, but overall he has been a very solid starter. He won 18 games in 2008, while also leading the American League in strikeouts (231). His best season (based on ERA+) came in 2002 with the Florida Marlins, when Burnett went 12-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 204 1/3 innings pitched. He tossed a National League leading five shutouts that season. One trend the Phillies may be happy with is Burnett's American League stats versus his National League stats. His ERA+ in the American League is an average 100, but in the National League, Burnett is 9% better, posting a 109 ERA+.
Burnett will join a Phillies rotation that, despite being led by Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, posted the sixth-worst starters' ERA in all of the Major Leagues. A good Burnett could really help those matters. As for the signing, the Phillies did not overpay, but they did not underpay. Many felt that they needed to sign A.J. Burnett in order to contend this season, so their front office must believe they can. Now with a rotation of Hamels, Lee, Burnett, Kyle Kendrick, and Jonathan Pettibone, Roberto Hernandez, or Miguel Gonzalez, the Phillies may just be setting themselves up for a sneaky good 2014 campaign. We will have to wait and see how it all plays out.