A.J. Burnett Inks One-Year Deal With Phillies
So if you have not already heard, the Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. have signed right-handed pitcher A.J. Burnett, 37, to a one-year $16 million deal today. The deal comes on the day that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.
The move becomes the biggest of the off-season for the Phillies if you still want to consider it the off-season. If not, the biggest move is probably the announcement that Chris Wheeler and Sarge will be replaced by Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs.
Burnett is a big right-hander with strike out capability and the prowess to force ground balls. He tallied 209 strikeouts last season (his most since 2008) to go along with 3.30 era (his lowest since 2007). Burnett appears poised to fill the third spot in the Phillies rotation behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.
Just before the news of the deal broke, Hamels announced that he is behind in his off-season progression. Due to soreness in his pitching arm Hamels will most likely not be ready to go on Opening Day.
With the Hamels revelation, and coming off a season that saw injuries to multiple starters, Burnett brings some much needed durability to the rotation. Despite his age, Burnett has made 30 or more starts each of the last six seasons.
With Burnett now on the team, the Phillies will have Hamels, Lee, Burnett and more than likely Roberto Hernandez penciled into the rotation. Returning pitcher Kyle Kendrick will also be in the mix for a rotation spot, but with the addition of Cuban free agent Miguel Gonzalez and Kendrick’s aptitude to pitch out of the bullpen, his spot may not be solidified.
The rotation for 2014, barring something catastrophic being wrong with Hamels, should be solid. However, the Phillies will still need to correct the team’s hitting woes. Will Ryan Howard return to top flight form? Will the team get solid contributions from the corner outfielders, Dominic Brown and Marlon Byrd? Can Abreu still play?
All of those questions will carry more impact than what the rotation will. You have to score to win.