A.J. Burnett has a $12.75MM player option for the 2015 season, but he’s also debated retirement on multiple occasions over the past two seasons, so whether or not he picks it up remains uncertain. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports hears, however, that Burnett is leaning toward pitching again in 2015. Heyman spoke to people close to Burnett and got the sense that given the righty’s love of pitching and the solid $12.75MM payday, there’s a “good chance” that he’ll pitch in 2015.
The news may bring about mixed reactions among Phillies faithful, as Burnett unquestionably struggled this season. Though the 37-year-old posted his highest innings total since 2008 (213 2/3) and made an NL-leading 34 starts, he also posted a disappointing 4.59 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a 50.6 percent ground-ball rate. Burnett posted an NL-worst 18 losses as well, though clearly that total is also reflective of his defense and a lack of run support. Beyond that, Burnett also pitched through a hernia for much of the season, an injury that, as Burnett told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, will require offseason surgery.
However, the prospect of a healthy Burnett in 2015 would improve the Phillies’ outlook. Currently, the team has little certainty in the rotation beyond ace Cole Hamels and righty David Buchanan (117 2/3 innings of 3.75 ERA in 2014), as it’s impossible to know what to expect of Cliff Lee next season as he recovers from a flexor tendon injury. Kyle Kendrick and Jerome Williams, each of whom occupied a rotation spot late in the 2014 season, are both free agents. Aaron Nola, the team’s first-round selection from 2014, could eventually factor into the equation. Other in-house options include Jonathan Pettibone and Jesse Biddle, though the latter certainly figures to need some more time to develop in the minors, and the former missed much of 2014 following shoulder surgery.