AJ Burnett - 2014 Fantasy Baseball Impact
After stating publicly that he would either re-sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates or retire, A.J. Burnett now finds himself moving east across the great state of Pennsylvania to join the Philadelphia Phillies rotation. News broke on Thursday that the 37-year-old signed for one year $16M. The signing came with odd timing, as hours before it was reported that Phillies starter Cole Hamels would not be ready for Opening Day, leaving a rotation spot wide open for the taking. While the move is questionable considering his statement about retirement and signing with a less-than-contending team, my analysis here will focus solely on how the move will affect Burnett and those around him.
First off, the situation for Burnett is worse than what he had with Pittsburgh. He must have forgotten that this isn’t 2009- the Phillies are no longer contenders in the top-heavy NL East. With the Braves and Nationals having a clear stranglehold on the division, maybe the $16M can help soothe the pain of what will eventually be a sad September for Burnett. Minus getting traded midseason to a contender, Burnett likely will not be ending his career with a winner, which was something he had a chance at in Pittsburgh.
Statistically speaking, this is not a great move for Burnett either. In his 14-year career, he was a none-too-impressive 19-31 against NL East teams excluding the Phillies. In Citizens Bank Park, Burnett has a 4.71 ERA with a 17/6 K/BB rate and 6 HR in 42 total innings. That, combined with the fact that he had been pitching in a much more pitcher-friendly PNC Park and had younger, more agile players manning the infield, and it seems that Burnett is a good bet to allow hits through the infield holes and more home runs over the shorter porch.
There are more ripples in this pond, beyond the impact for the two-time World Series champ. Burnett will be taking over the #2 spot in the rotation while Cole Hamels gets ready to start his season behind schedule. When Hamels returns, everybody will be pushed back a spot, likely sending Roberto Hernandez (the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona) to the bullpen. Back in Pittsburgh, A.J. has left an open spot in the Bucco’s rotation, which they will try to fill with top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon. Taillon has reported to Spring Training, and he will look to get a jumpstart on his MLB career by filling Burnett's shoes.
Overall, this signing seems like an impulse buy for the Phillies as a reaction to the Hamels injury. Before this deal, I couldn't have imagined him repeating his success from the past two seasons, and this only worsens his case for fantasy purposes. I would steer clear of Burnett for the time being unless you can grab him after pick 200 in which case he should return pretty good value.
2014 Projection: 185 IP, 11-10, 3.75 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 175K
That’s all for now. Look out for my next article in the RotoBaller Oakland A's Notebook, and make sure to follow Justin on Twitter @JustBerglund and @Rotoballer for all the latest fantasy updates.