The @Phillies sign RHP A.J. Burnett to 1-year, $16 million contract with an option for 2015; designate LHP Joe Savery for assignment.— MLBRosterMoves (@MLBRosterMoves) February 16, 2014
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly first announced the sides had reached an agreement:
Phillies have a one year deal with Burnett, source confirms.— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) February 12, 2014
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the deal will pay him $16 million:
Burnett with #Phillies - one year, $16M. Other details to come.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 12, 2014
Burnett spent the last two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2013, he made 30 starts and finished with a solid 3.30 ERA. In 191 innings he struck out 209 batters, ranking 10th in MLB. Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports the Pirates made an attempt to retain Burnett's services, stating: "The Pirates offered Burnett $12 million, according to a source, a reasonable and fair offer yet below what the open market would bear. Burnett opted for the open market."
Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports that the deal contains a mutual option:
Look at A.J. Burnett deal, which includes mutual option and limited no-trade. Deal could give Phils record payroll. http://t.co/FOpuPcjieE— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) February 12, 2014
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review provides more details about Burnett's decision:
Neal Huntington: “(Burnett) informed us it was family based. The player made a decision to be closer to home. He loved his time here."— Travis Sawchik (@Sawchik_Trib) February 12, 2014
Adding another reliable pitcher to the rotation was key for the Phillies on two fronts.
First, Burnett gives the Phillies a better chance of usurping the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals in the NL East. The Phillies finished 23 games behind the Braves in the division race last season.
David Cameron of Fangraphs isn't convinced it's a move that will completely bridge the gap for Philadelphia, though:
Without Burnett, our forecasts have Phillies at 74-88. He’ll help a bit, but this is still not a great team. http://t.co/g5v07RN8XX— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) February 12, 2014
Andrew Simon of MLB.com adds another interesting detail:
A.J. Burnett will be the ninth player on the Phillies' 40-man roster born in the 70s. The rest of the NL East has seven.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) February 12, 2014
The other factor is Cole Hamels' health. He and Cliff Lee formed a terrific one-two punch atop the Phillies' rotation since 2011, but exactly when he'll be available remains unclear. Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer noted earlier in the day that due to some shoulder issues he won't be ready for Opening Day:
Cole Hamels says he is behind schedule. Dealt with tendinitis. Will not start opening day.— Matt Gelb (@magelb) February 12, 2014
Burnett should provide some stability for the Phillies while Hamels works his way back to full strength.
What's your opinion of the Burnett signing?
To seriously challenge the Braves and Nationals, however, the Phillies can't afford for Hamels to miss much time. Their margin for error is already thin, and Burnett isn't going to totally offset his absence if he misses more than a few starts.
If the Philadelphia rotation can stay otherwise healthy and get consistent run support from the team's aging offensive core, there's a chance the Phillies can contend.