Phillies: Good News, Then Bad News

Posted: 02/13/2014 by levcohen in Baseball, Broad Street Sports

Yesterday, the Phillies signed A.J. Burnett to a one year deal that will be worth 16 million dollars. The reactions have been mixed. The pessimists say that they paid too much for a 37 year old pitcher, and that Burnett is not a great fit for this team. Burnett is a ground ball pitcher, and he will be hurt by the Phillies’ poor infield range, they say. Also, Burnett will help the Phillies, but they are still a long way away from contending for the playoffs.

The optimists say that a one year deal for a good player is always a good thing. The Phillies were very thin at the back of the rotation, and desperately needed this depth. This addition makes sense in the context of the Marlon Byrd, Carlos Ruiz, and Roberto Hernandez signings. Ruben Amaro thinks they can contend, so this one-year deal makes sense. The worst case scenario is that if they fall out of contention early, they can trade Burnett mid-season for some young prospects.

I fall in between the two schools of thought. Generally, I like one year contracts, and I also like A.J. Burnett. He’s a good pitcher, and a huge improvement over Jonathan Pettibone. It never hurts to have starting pitching depth, and Burnett is pretty good. On the other hand, the deal might be more complicated one year deal. It turns out that the deal might include a 2015 player option, which means the Phillies are on the books for two years. Burnett was also given a limited no trade clause (the extent of the NTC has still not been reported). These two factors at least partially negate two of the biggest positives of this contract: Burnett’s tradability and the one year deal. I also don’t think the Phillies are remotely close to the playoffs, so while I like the concept of this deal (signing a good player to a short deal), I don’t think it is an ideal fit for a team that probably should be rebuilding and going the route of youth.

At almost the same time that Burnett was signed, there was bad news; Cole Hamels will not be ready for opening day. He has tendinitis in his left (throwing) shoulder that he says cropped up when he started revamping his workout regimen in November. Shoulders are tricky, and Hamels says that he “see myself pitching in April”, which is positive but not exactly hope-instilling. The fact that we know in mid February that Hamels will likely open the season on the DL is a bad thing, and this is the kind of injury that could easily become a week to week thing and not a day to day thing come April. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamels either didn’t pitch in April or aggravated his injury. The Phillies can’t afford to have Hamels injured. As things stand, they are at best a very fringe playoff contender. If EVERYTHING goes right, I can see them making the playoffs. Ryan Howard would need to have a big bounce back season. Chase Utley would have to stay healthy. Jimmy Rollins and Ruiz would also have to bounce back, and plenty of other players will have to step up. What they can’t afford is injuries to their best players, and Hamels is the second best player this team has. A.J. Burnett or not, this team is not getting anywhere if Cole Hamels is injured, and he is already injured.

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