Phillies starter A.J. Burnett has declined his player option, the Phillies announced. By turning down his $12.75MM option, Burnett will become a free agent.
Burnett’s decision was one of the more closely-watched option situations around the game, in large part because the outcome was unclear. The Phillies have recently made clear they intend to focus the organization’s energies on rebuilding for the future rather than competing in the near-term, and that — combined with his experiences last year — may have encouraged Burnett to leave the cash on the table.
Indeed, from Philadelphia’s perspective, the savings on Burnett appear to constitute a nice opportunity. As MLBTR’s Brad Johnson wrote in his outlook for the Phils, the decision swing open a significant bit of space between the team’s current obligations and the luxury tax line.
For Burnett, the decision leaves him free to pursue a deal with a contending club, and his agent tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link) that he’ll do just that. Of course, Burnett presumably still carries his preference for joining a team within range of his Maryland home.
Burnett is not quite the commodity he was last year — his 4.59 ERA/4.14 FIP/3.95 xFIP/4.00 SIERA campaign does not have nearly the luster that last year’s 3.30/2.80/2.92/3.03 numbers did. And he is a year older, entering his age-38 campaign. On the other hand, he again posted big innings totals and did pitch through a sports hernia for most of the year.