The Philadelphia Phillies added a big arm to their rotation today, signing veteran righty AJ Burnett to a one-year deal worth $16 million. Burnett, who is 37 years old, pitched the last two seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he re-established himself as a solid, top of the rotation starter.
In 2013, Burnett started 30 games, going 10-11 with a career best 3.30 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. He pitched 191 innings, striking out 209 and walking 67. This comes on the heels of a resurgent 2012 for Burnett, where he amassed a 16-10 record with a 3.51 ERA. From 2009 to 2011, Burnett pitched for the New York Yankees, and seemed to crack under the pressure of the big stage, posting an ERA of over 5 in two of the three seasons. He did, however, shut the Phillies down in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series, allowing just one run in 8 innings – one of his best starts as a Yankee.
Before heading to New York, Burnett pitched with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Florida Marlins, which is where he began his career. The Phillies saw their share of Burnett in the early 2000's, as he spent 7 seasons with the Marlins from 1999-2005. Burnett won the World Series with Florida in 2003.
While the Phillies have added yet another aging player to their roster, Burnett is perhaps a more solid pitcher than he has been through his entire career. Also, General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made a smart move to sign Burnett to only a one-year deal, leaving little liability if Burnett were to go down with injury or under-perform. At the very least, he is a very competent replacement for the retired Roy Halladay.
The signing comes just one day before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Clearwater, FL. The rest of the squad will report next Tuesday the 18th, and the first exhibition game is Wednesday February 26th against the Toronto Blue Jays, one of Burnett's old squads.
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