The Phillies have reportedly expressed interest in free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. It was previously believed that Burnett would consider only the Pirates or retirement.
I've been pining for Burnett since last summer. He's 37, but would fit the Phillies well on a one- or two-year deal.
Burnett's been really, really good since returning to the NL after six years in the AL East. In 2012 and 2013 with the Pirates, he went 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA in 61 starts, striking out 8.9 batters per nine and walking 3.0.
His WHIP was 1.23 and his opponents had a .306 on-base percentage. Burnett had a ground-ball rate of 56.7%, which was second-best in the majors to Trevor Cahill.
Burnett's ability to strike batters out and keep the ball on the ground make him extremely effective in high-pressure situations.
Yeah, he's 37, but the Phillies have so little rotation depth that he would unquestionably improve the team, maybe by as much as three wins.
Burnett's new-found willingness to play for teams other than the Pirates in 2014 is intriguing. He lives in suburban Baltimore and wants to stay close to home, which is why the pitching-needy Orioles and Phillies have reportedly been in pursuit. Burnett is a neighbor and friend of Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock, for what it's worth.
There's a lot of uncertainty regarding Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. If the Phillies were to give Burnett a one-year deal worth, say, $12 million, they could ease Gonzalez into the majors as a setup man, thereby strengthening their bullpen and preparing him for the rotation in 2015, when Kyle Kendrick may be gone.
Something to keep an eye on as spring training nears. There are still some pretty enticing names on the starting pitching market.