Philadelphia Phillies: How Real Is the Interest in A.J. Burnett?

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Philadelphia Phillies: How Real Is the Interest in A.J. Burnett?
John Bazemore/Associated Press

If Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. were to hop out of a DeLorean DMC-12 with a freshly minted contract for Doug Glanville, would anybody be surprised?

The apparent mantra for the Phillies this offseason is to dig in with older veterans who only have to prove they can still leg it out to first base without pulling their groin. Therefore, it should be no surprise that the Phillies are interested in pitcher A.J. Burnett should he play in 2014.

According to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, the Phillies "would still have interest" in the 37-year-old righty should he decide not to hang up his cleats. If Stark is tweeting such, it is legitimate.

One only has to peek at what the Phillies have in store for their rotation to understand where the team is probably coming from.

After Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, the Phillies are going to have to select from Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Pettibone, Roberto Hernandez, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and possibly Chad Gaudin to round out the rotation. While Gaudin seems the unlikeliest of the latter due to signing a minor league deal with the Phillies, the competition for the back end of the Phillies is rotting with mediocrity.

And just think, Amaro wants you to believe the Phillies can compete for a pennant in 2014.

I'm not suggesting the acquisition of Burnett would put the Phillies over the top in a bulky National League East. After all, the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves are currently composed of players that would blow the doors off Amaro's DeLorean

What I am saying is an acquisition of Burnett would make the Phillies a much more formidable foe. They would need everyone to remain healthy and play at a caliber they haven't played at since 2011. Even then, mystical forces would have to be at work for the Nationals and Braves to falter below Philadelphia's demarcation.

Over the past two seasons, Burnett was one of the better arms in the National League. As ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the righty posted a 26-21 record with an ERA of 3.41. By helping the fans of the Steel City get re-accustomed to raising the Jolly Roger, Burnett will forever be memorialized among the legends of Pirates baseball, even if his tenure was only two seasons.

All things considered, no one should be surprised if the Phillies pursue Burnett. Amaro and the organization were quick to hitch their wagon to 36-year-old Marlon Byrd. In order to fortify their 2003 reunion, they landed Bobby Abreu via a minor league contract. Contrary to the aforementioned veterans, Burnett could be more of a difference-maker in Philadelphia's pinstripes.

With a crowded back end of the rotation, uncertainty is abound. Without any evident direction, Amaro could pull off a deal with Burnett so long as he intends to continue his career. But then again, it could be another demonstration in baseball transaction-making where the Phillies' GM whiffs harder than Pedro Cerrano.

Needless to say, the Phillies' interest in Burnett is real. If it weren't, longtime baseball writer, and author of Phillies' books, Jayson Stark wouldn't put his neck on the line saying so.

 

All statistics provided courtesy of FanGraphs.

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