Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times writes that the Rays will have to consider cutting Pat Burrell loose if their designated hitter doesn't start producing. Although Tampa Bay management maintains that they have confidence in Burrell's ability, Topkin speculates that by mid-May or early-June, the club may run out of patience.
Burrell hit .221/.315/.367 in 2009 and is off to another slow start in 2010, the final season of his two-year contract. He'll make $9MM this year, a figure which will likely make him unmovable. Topkin thinks that at some point the Rays "will just have to accept their mistake and cut him loose."
If they were to cut ties with Burrell, the Rays would have other options available. Hank Blalock is currently in Triple A, waiting for an opportunity to earn Major League playing time. Additionally, Topkin points out that Rocco Baldelli has been taking regular batting practice at Tropicana Field and would like to play again. The long-time Ray would be a cheap right-handed alternative, and, as this Rays Index article suggests, Tampa fans would have more patience with him than they've had with Pat the Bat.
Burrell's $9MM salary would be a huge cost for the budget-conscious Rays to eat, so expect them to give the 33-year-old every chance to succeed. However, if his struggles continue and compromise the club's chances of contending, they could be forced to make a change.