Now that both the general manager and winter meetings are over, the Philadelphia Phillies are running out of venues to make a signing that would move the needle with their anxious fan base.
It’s not that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has run out of moves, but Roberto Hernandez and his 6-13 record were not quite what the Phils’ fans had in mind. Signing right-handed free agent A.J. Burnett would be much more like it, and Amaro might be working on that right now. When or if it gets done is another question entirely, but there are circumstances that point both Burnett and the Phillies toward one another.
The Phillies found themselves short of available arms at the end of last season, and beyond the top two of Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels there are numerous question marks at the back end of their rotation. Signing Hernandez just added another one.
Burnett, on the other hand, would be closer to an exclamation point, and as recently as last month Amaro expressed the opinion that the Phillies needed to add a No. 2 or 3 starter. Hernandez isn’t a No. 3, but Burnett is. Also, Burnett lives in the Baltimore area, just a short 90-mile ride up Interstate 95 to Philadelphia so the appeal could go both ways. He turns 37 next month and would fit into a clubhouse filled with similar-aged players.
Signing Burnett to a one-year deal would not add another long-term contract to their payroll. Since going from the New York Yankees to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Burnett has gone 26-21 over the last two seasons which is a heckuva lot better than the 6-13 skepticism Hernandez brings to the table. He is also a ground ball pitcher, and that’s something that would play well in home run friendly Citizens Bank Park.
Right now, Phillies fans are underwhelmed and unmoved by what Amaro has done this offseason. Signing Burnett would at least get a few fans excited, and that’s what the Phillies need to do now.