A.J. Burnett, Phillies agree to 1-year deal


Burnett had said he would return to the Pirates or retire earlier in the offseason. As it turns out, he decided not to do either.

The Philadelphia Phillies and starting pitcher A.J. Burnett have agreed to a one-year deal, reports Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia. He will make $16 million in 2014. Rumors of a deal were first reported by Hayden Balgavy of THV 11.

The Phillies had emerged as a candidate for Burnett in the last week after the ex-Pirates ace formally announced his intention to play one more season. He had been considering the possibility of retirement.

According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Burnett's contract also has a mutual option for 2015 and a partial no-trade clause.

Burnett, 37, will join a rotation alongside Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick, with Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez -- signed earlier this offseason to a three-year, $12 million deal -- the odds on favorite to earn the fifth spot in the rotation. That would leave Roberto Hernandez (A.K.A. Fausto Carmona) and Jonathan Pettibone as starting depth.

Burnett revitalized his career the past two seasons with the Pirates, including arguable the best year of his career in 2013. He made 30 starts for the Pirates last year, with a 3.30 ERA and a league-leading 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Earlier in the offseason he said he would either re-sign with the Pirates or retire though he clearly back away from that notion recently. The Pirates had been so confident in that statement that they refrained from making a qualifying offer, meaning the Phillies will not have to lose a draft pick to sign him.

Since declaring he would play one more year, Burnett had expressed a preference for staying in the National League and staying close to his home in Monkton, Maryland. Philadelphia fits those criteria well, though they may not have been as ideal a landing spot if Burnett hopes to compete. Even with him on board, most believe everything will need to go right for the Phillies to land a playoff spot.

Worth noting as well is the fact that Citizens Bank Park is a rather hitter-friendly ballpark, and is particularly prone to home runs. That could make Burnett a decent fit as he has been a strong-ground ball pitcher, particularly in recent years. In two seasons with the Phillies, nearly 57% of batted balls against him were grounders. Despite that, Burnett has struggled in eight career appearances in Citizens Bank Park, with a 4.71 ERA and 732 opponents OPS.

The Burnett signing comes right on the heels of news that Hamels will miss Opening Day due to biceps tendinitis. Hamels has fallen a month behind in his offseason throwing routine due to the injury, but is expected to throw a bullpen session within two weeks. If he is forced to miss more time than originally expected, Burnett may be the best possible insurance for the Phillies.

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