Pat Burrell has had many ups and downs during his Phillies career. The top draft pick overall in 1998 has reached free agency for the first time. Though it is likely the Phillies will offer Pat Burrell arbitration tomorrow, it is time that the Phillies let Pat Burrell move on.
Burrell made his major league debut in 2000 to play first base upon an injury to slick fielding Rico Brogna. A third baseman in his college years, Burrell first played first base in the Phillies' farm system, ironically moving to left field in AA because Brogna blocked the way.
However, in 2000, the Phillies acquired first base defensive whiz Travis Lee, let Brogna go to the Red Sox on waivers, and traded Ron Gant to the Angels. Lee played left field for the Phillies for 10 games, and then Lee and Burrell switched positions. Since then, Burrell has played 1185 games in left field.
It is Burrell's defense that is one major reason that it is time for Burrell to go. In the Phillies' World Championship 2008 season, Burrell was pulled by Phillies manager Charlie Manuel for a defensive replacement or for a pinch runner in most games in which the Phillies had a lead or could take the lead when Burrell got on base.
Manuel mostly pulled Burrell after the seventh inning to maintain a lead. To accommodate such a move, So Taguchi, and then, later in the season, Eric Bruntlett, would come off of the bench. Such a move on a daily basis left the Phillies essentially playing with a 24-man roster, and hurt the Phillies in situations later when the game would go extra innings.
The result was pinch-hitting appearances by Cole Hamels on a seemingly regular basis during the regular season.
His defense in mind, the primary argument for Burrell's return is his offense. While Burrell did hit 33 home runs in 2008, his 86 RBI are hardly spectacular for someone batting behind on-base machine Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Jayson Werth had 67 RBI in 118 fewer at-bats, and could easily duplicate Burrell's RBI totals playing nine innings every game in left field.
Geoff Jenkins, half of the 2008 Werth-Jenkins platoon in right, will look to rebound from his less than stellar offensive output, and figures to be paired with a right-handed bat in another platoon.
Pat Burrell likely will command a contract at three years or more at the $14 million he earned this year or larger. The Phillies, loaded with superstars such as Howard, Utley, Hamels, Rollins and Victorino, will not be able to afford all players down the line. The Phillies will not lose enough offensive production to warrant this money.
That, coupled with his defensive liabilities, proves that it is time to let Burrell go.