Philadelphia Phillies fans have grown accustomed to upper management shelling out loads of money for players who are up there in age. When the team signed veteran right-handed pitcher A.J. Burnett this past offseason, many supporters scratched their heads as to why.
In February, the Phillies gave Burnett a one-year deal worth $16 million, making him the fifth-highest paid player on the team. The contract put him on a pedestal with the likes of Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels. It was a tall order to live up to.
Plenty of people criticized the Phillies for investing that much in a player who had just turned 37 and generated no real buzz in free agency. However, the deal isn’t as bad as it appeared at first — especially when you consider how Burnett has performed so far in 2014.
$16 million is a lot of money, yes. But Burnett had a string of nine straight years with at least 10 wins, so it makes sense if the team was banking on that sort of production. Philadelphia’s management knew it would need a solid pitching staff to combat an inconsistent offense, and bringing in Burnett was the way to do that. Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez hadn’t been what the team hoped for at the time, and the Phillies needed another top-of-the-rotation starter because of that.
Burnett has proved to be worth every penny of that $16 million deal. He’s 1-1 with a 2.15 ERA, a record that’s clearly a byproduct of said inconsistent offense. In three starts after revealing he had an inguinal hernia, Burnett’s ERA has dipped under 1.00. He’s surrendered just 14 hits, given up two earned runs and walked three batters. He’s struck out 18 opponents during that span and has pitched at least 6.2 innings each time.
Not only can Burnett chuck it, but he brings veteran leadership to the clubhouse and playoff experience as recently as last year. For a team that hasn’t been to the postseason since 2011, bringing a guy like Burnett on board made sense if the front office felt as though it lost that championship pedigree.
Burnett is proving to be worth that $16 million investment. Who knows — when it’s all said and done he could even be worth more than that.