The focus on Philadelphia sports talk show radio the last three days has been the wisdom of the Philadelphia Phillies signing former free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett.
Surprisingly, half the callers are for it and half against it and half of them are wrong.
There can be no downside to signing a guy with the highest strikeout-per-inning ratio in all of baseball last season, even if that guy is 37-years-old. In a ballpark like Citizens Bank Park where every fly ball to the outfield is a potential home run, there can be no downside to signing a ground-ball pitcher like Burnett. The $16 million, one-year deal is steep on its face value, but that money is not coming out of the fans’ pockets and their ticket prices won’t go up because of it.
So what, exactly, is the problem?
In my mind there is none, because Burnett gives the Phillies a legitimate No. 3, something they have not had since Roy Halladay was healthy and Cole Hamels was slotted into that spot behind Halladay and Cliff Lee. Let’s remember, Halladay has not been completely healthy since the 2011 season. Burnett is completely healthy.
Hamels, who has experienced some arm soreness and is, in his estimation, 10 days behind normal schedule, is the current No. 2 behind the remarkably consistent ace Lee who will start the season opener in Texas on Mar. 31.
Lee, Hamels and Burnett sound a lot better than Lee, Hamels and Kyle Kendrick or Lee, Hamels and Jonathan Pettibone, which is what the Phillies were staring at before Burnett came on board. Having Pettibone and Kendrick fight it out over the No. 4 spot in the rotation makes the Phillies a better ballclub than having them fight it out for No. 3, and that’s the bottom line to the Burnett signing.