Pat Burrell's move to the American League did not go as smoothly as he or the Rays hoped. Burrell left the World Series-winning Phillies to sign a two-year, $16MM free agent contract with Tampa Bay last January, and then suffered through a season's worth of injuries and inconsistency to finish with a career-worst .682 OPS (.221/.315/.367) in 476 plate appearances.
With $9MM due to Burrell in 2010, the Rays have been openly shopping the slugger this winter. Rumors of a deal of Burrell-for-Milton Bradley swirled for months before the Cubs dealt Bradley to Seattle last week. With seemingly their best trade option gone, it appears as if Tampa Bay will go into next season with Burrell back in the DH spot — which, if 2009 was just an aberration, might not be a bad option given Burrell's 251 homers and .852 OPS over his first nine years in Philadelphia.
If the Rays still want to move Burrell and save some cash, however, here are a few of the clubs that are in need of a DH/LF type and might have the payroll flexibility to absorb some or all of Burrell's contract.
- The Mets. Should they give up on signing Jason Bay (or lose him to the Red Sox), New York would still have a hole to fill in left field. The downside of Burrell going to a National League team, however, is his glove. He played just two games in the outfield last season, and according to Fangraphs, his defense ranged from mediocre to terrible (a -25.2 UZR/150 in 2007) over his last four years in Philadelphia.
- The Cardinals. Just as Burrell is a backup plan for the Mets if they don't sign Bay, he can also be a backup plan for St. Louis if they don't sign Matt Holliday.
- The Braves. Atlanta's biggest offseason need was a right-handed power hitter. While they are close to a deal with Troy Glaus, Glaus made just 32 plate appearances in 2009 after undergoing shoulder surgery last January. Burrell is perhaps a more reliable option, and may regain his batting stroke back in the NL East.
- The White Sox. Ozzie Guillen likes the idea of a rotating designated hitter, but GM Kenny Williams didn't close the door on the possibility of picking up an everyday DH if the right opportunity presented itself.
- The Giants. Mark DeRosa may be coming in as San Francisco's new left fielder, but Burrell could be an interesting alternative should DeRosa not accept the Giants' offer. Or, the power-starved Giants could acquire Burrell to play in left, and then sign DeRosa to play third base, thus moving Pablo Sandoval over to first. (Or, Sandoval plays 1B, DeRosa plays 2B and Freddy Sanchez moves over to 3B.) If the Rays pay some of Burrell's contract, then he is a much cheaper option for San Francisco than Johnny Damon.