A.J. Burnett timed his contract year perfectly, reaching career highs with 32 starts and 209 innings in 2005 for the Marlins. He even would’ve made another start that year, but he ripped the team publicly in September and the Marlins asked him to leave.
The outburst didn’t diminish interest in Burnett during the 2005-06 offseason; reportedly 22 teams expressed interest. The Cardinals and Nationals submitted offers, but Toronto won with five years and $55MM. The deal was panned at the time, but the money looks reasonable now that the pitching market has shifted upward.
Burnett’s stay in Toronto over the past 1.5 years has been laden with DL trips. This time he got a cortisone shot in his sore shoulder and hopes to return shortly before the July 31st trade deadline. Jeff Blair of The Globe and Mail believes J.P. Ricciardi might try to cut ties with Burnett this month, if he can convince some team to gamble on his nasty stuff.
Here’s the contract situation. He has about $6MM left this year, and $12MM in ’08. At that point, Burnett can opt out of the contract. Prior to 2009 season, Burnett must decide whether he can top a two-year, $24MM deal on the open market. That will depend mainly on his health in 2008.
Could Ricciardi really convince a GM to gamble on Burnett’s health and also bear the risk of being stuck with him through 2010? Not likely. Not even if Burnett comes back and tosses a no-hitter on July 30th. The money would be tricky – perhaps Ricciardi would agree to shoulder some of the load if Burnett chooses to honor his contract for 2009-10 (for that would imply that he’s not really worth $24MM over that span).
Billy Beane is definitely Ricciardi’s favorite trading partner, but Beane has his own Burnett to deal with in Rich Harden.