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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Phillies Shouldn't Re-Sign Pat Burrell

While he had an excellent first part of the season, he's hitting .167 since August 5. Last season, Burrell was among the best offensive players after the All-Star break (among the top in on-base percentage), only to fade mightily in the last two weeks of the regular season. He's a defensive liability, and now he's not hitting in the clutch for the Phillies (in contrast, offensively challenged catcher Carlos Ruiz is hitting over .300 in the past month, but otherwise his season has been a disaster at the plate).

Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley (who also has not displayed the offensive pluck he did earlier in the season) are the core of this team and nearing their primes. The Phillies need help, though, in the outfield. Burrell should go. CF Shane Victorino is a good player, and part-time OF Jayson Werth needs to prove he can hit righties consistently to take over for Burrell (Utley three years ago had to prove he could hit lefties consistently, and he has done so). RF Geoff Jenkins will be back because he has a year left on his contract, but he's been a dud, as has fifth outfielder So Taguchi, who has only a one-year deal and appears to be through. Yet, despite the Phillies' challenges in the outfield, I don't think they should re-sign Burrell.

Burrell is finishing a 5-year, $60 million deal. He'll be 32 in October, and I can't see him getting more than a three-year deal. The question is, how much will he command -- I would say in the $10 million per year range, perhaps more if power-starved teams believe he'll meet a need, which means the contract offer also could swell to four years for $12 million per. Somehow, though, I don't think he'll get that. He's not someone you can build your franchise around; he's the fourth or fifth most important player in a good team's lineup. And yet. . .

The Phillies might try hard to re-sign him because he's a good soldier, seemingly well-regarded in the locker room, predictable, and, well, affordable and, yes, safe. What they should do is get someone with more upside, more spark, someone who can field the position better and hit more consistently. I don't know who might be available in a trade or via free agency, but the Phillies' ownership will need to trawl the waters hard to find at least two outfielders in the off-season, perhaps three depending on what they do with 40 year-old Matt Stairs.

The bet here is that they'll re-sign Burrell, though, because stretching to improve the team by taking greater risks is not within the make-up of the ownership or the front office. Sure, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson and Jason Donald might become good Major Leaguers, but had the Phillies packaged some of them in a deal with Cleveland, they'd be leading the NL East right now (probably by more than 3 games) because they -- and not Milwaukee -- would have CC Sabathia on their staff. Having Sabathia would have given them more wins and would have put less strain on an overtaxed bullpen. And it's not as though these prospects would turn into Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips, the players that the then-Montreal Expos gave up to Cleveland during a stretch drive many years ago to land Bartolo Colon. Somehow, the Phillies don't seem to generate clusters of prospects the way other organizations do.

I, for one, have little enthusiasm for a Burrell re-signing and a concomitant failure to improve the starting pitching roster. Jamie Moyer's contract is up, and at 46 (he'll turn 46 in November) despite his excellence while in Philadelphia you have to wonder how much he has left. Adam Eaton's contract puts an $8 million albatross around the front office's neck for the 2009 season, and Kyle Kendrick is now a project. Yes, you have Cole Hamels and a revived Brett Myers, although I'd submit that the latter's goofy streak makes it hard to predict how well he'll pitch next season (I am optimistic, though, on the topic). And Joe Blanton is a .500 pitcher at best. The farm? No one seems to be jumping up and grabbing a starter's position. If the Phillies do re-sign Burrell at a good price (for them), then the fans will tolerate it only if the team upgrades in the outfield and behind home plate. Otherwise, you'll have a team that could slip to .500 rather quickly.


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11:05 AM  
Anonymous Buy Cialis said...

I think the opposite because Burrel is one of the beat offensive players in the story I think he must be resigned, I don't have any doubt he'll do his best effort.

11:32 AM  
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