April 15, 2014

Shock me: Phillies' Amaro channels Al Davis again with Burnett (updated)

Even if Cole Hamels reportedly might not be ready at the start of the season, flushing out $16M to former Pirate A.J. Burnett? That's just nuts.

I stand corrected. It could be up to $33.5 mil for 2 years, with a mutual option that Ruben Amaro, should he be lucky enough not to be fired, will surely be dumb enough to pick up. Jayson Stark adds that the contract also has a 20-team no-trade clause.

Stark also comments on that option year:
But even if both sides don't exercise that option, Burnett also has a player option for 2015 that would be worth between $7.5 million and $12.75 million, depending on his performance this season. And there are $1.75 million worth of what one source described as "reachable" performance bonuses in each of the two seasons. 
Holy crap, this is a hugely bad contract.

But wait, it's worse. Yes, worse!

This may, depending on mid-season call-ups and such, push the Phillies over the salary cap/lux tax limit

(Update, April 15: It's worse yet. Burnett has been, if not teh suck, kind of "indifferent." And know we know why: He has an inguinal hernia.)

Even with a healthy Hamels AND a Burnett signing (for less money), the Phils still have a good shot at finishing fourth in that division again. And, an outside shot at dragging the bottom.

Might be time for Jonah Keri to update this year's bad contracts list.

And, he says "no," saying on Twitter:
Burnett had a great 2013 & signed 1-year deal, so no.
I would NOT call that last year "great."

1.7 WAR? 107 ERA+? Even at a bit of a high price of $7M/WAR, it's still a 33 percent overpay. 

I was speaking somewhat tongue in cheek, knowing it's just a one-year deal. It's still an overpay, and probably more than 33 percent. Keri said he wasn't interested in 1-year numbers off B-R, so, longer term?

He's only had above a 110 ERA+ once in the past six seasons and above 2.4 WAR just once in the last eight. Both 2010 and 2011 were negative WAA. Maybe $12.5M for one year, but not $16. And, $12.5M, albeit per year for four years, is what Matt Garza got.

Jonah's still trying to make a case that even longer term, ERA isn't a good measure. But, ERA+, not ERA, does track reasonably close to fielding-independent pitching over longer term. And, I like Baseball-Reference better than Fangraphs for other reasons, including free RSS feed links to players for we bloggers.

Sorry, Jonah, but Amaro panicked for a team that ain't making the playoffs anyway. Hell, the Pirates didn't even given him a tender offer, and he had still been sitting on the shelf drawing almost no interest until Hamels came up with a bum wing.

Sadly, he's not alone in calling Burnett's recent work "great" or similar. Here's a fan blog:
Burnett was outstanding in his two years in a Pirates uniform, winning 26 games, pitching to a 3.41 ERA while being an innings eater, hurling 393.1 frames over his two years in Pittsburgh.
That's "outstanding"? Not. Not even close. And, let's add in that Burnett will be 37. Due for a bit of further age-related decline. It's also a sad day when 200 innings is an "innings eater." Speaking of innings eaters, I'd say this is worse than what the Snakes gave Bronson Arroyo, even if that was 2 years for $23.5 with the option buyout on a third year. (Speaking of, please note the poll at top right.)

Also, and not "sadly," but ... Jonah, you're wrong!

If you want me to go to Fangraphs, I can do that, Jonah? And, you know what? There, Burnett's 2013 FIP looks like a fluke. Fluke. His 2.80 is a career low and the only time he's been below 3.1. Thank you very much, and it's an overpay on your own stats terms, Jonah.

I got more reasons he's a fluke, looking at B-R. His 0.5 HR/9 ties a career low. His WHIP (and pitchers control walks, too) the lowest in six years. Sure, it's possible he can be in the same ballpark on all of these stats next year, but likely? I think not.

He seems to have "regression candidate" written across his forehead.

My predictions for a 2014 Burnett? 185 innings. ERA+ of 102. A WAR of 1.3 and WAA of -0.2. And, that might be generous. Have fun with your $16M, A.J. Have fun blowing money for a possible last-place team, Ruben. And, have fun as  defending this as not an overpay, all and sundry.

Plus, as David Schoenfield notes at ESPN's Sweet Spot, Burnett benefited from the Pirates doing a lot of strategic defensive shifts.
As noted often during their run to the playoffs, Pittsburgh was among the most aggressive teams in regards to infield shifts. Burnett is on record as being opposed to the shift; however, since 2012 the Pirates' staff batting average allowed on groundballs is .216 -- second lowest in the majors. Burnett's personal average since joining the club is .214. The league average for the same time frame is .231. Over the last two years, Burnett was the pitcher of record for 1,135 outs. Of those, 41 percent have come on the ground. 
The Phillies aren't much into that, plus their infield isn't a lot better than the Yankees. Thus, FIP wasn't so "independent," if you will.

Based on those estimates, the Pirates' offer of $12M, still a bit of an overpay, makes more sense. Per a friend, I don't know why he wasn't slapped with the tender label. Would $2M more too much for the Pirate payroll? That said, he's not a $16M man.

I hear petards hoisting, for both Amaro and Keri, I think.

Your thoughts? Feel free to vote in the poll at top right.

And, Jamie Moyer? Don't go in that broadcast booth just yet. I'll bet you've got Amaro on speed dial. If not, you should.

I'm sure that Amaro will once again refuse to trade anybody at the midseason trade deadline, either.

Have fun not rebuilding, Ruben. Have fun not getting value out of Cliff Lee. Speaking of Uncle Cliffy, and Ruben Amaro, and Jonah Keri, if the Phils do need to be in rebuilding mode, and I think two of the three of us agree on that one, paying a league-average 37-year-old $16 million on a 1-year contract isn't how you rebuild. Trading your top trade asset, an All-Star level lefty who can still bring value to an aged team with a thin farm system, is how you rebuild.

I mean, Amaro talked about midseason trades of Lee, Hamels or both last year but then never followed through. True, potential trade partners may have been lowballing him, but he may have been highballing them. And, if the Rangers and Tigers could make their big blockbuster trade this offseason, surely Lee could have been moved, too.

But I'm just a blogger, not a always-brilliant part of the ESPN/Grantland baseball writers studio, you know? I guess I don't know, even if I can quote Fangraphs as well as Baseball-Reference. But, if you really think buying Burnett instead of trading Cliff Lee is how Amaro should rebuild, well, OK, then. Maybe, after Amaro gets fired, you can be the next Phillies GM.

Add to this that, per the updates, Keri's doubling down on this not being a bad contract.

And, sarcastic? Me? Never.

Also, one-year contracts may not be so bad, but, if a team gets a regular history of overpays on 1-year contracts, cumulatively, they are bad.

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