Burnett Declines Player Option, Becomes Free Agent

Bob McClure, Carlos RuizThe Phillies need starting pitching help, but A.J. Burnett did them a huge favor tonight.

The team announced Burnett declined his $12.75 million player option, which makes him a free agent. Burnett, who signed a one-year, $16 million deal with mutual and player options in February, went 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA in 34 starts, pitching with an inguinal hernia most of the season. He led Major League Baseball in losses, earned runs allowed (109) and walks (96).

Burnett received a $1 million buyout from the Phillies for declining their half of a mutual option.

“It’s obviously a frustrating year,” Burnett said on his final start of the season in September. “You come over here and you expect to make an impact. And you make the wrong impact.”

The Phillies are in rebuilding mode, so they hoped they would not have to pay Burnett a hefty sum to pitch for a team that does not expect to contend until 2017 at the earliest. The Phillies can allocate Burnett’s 2015 salary elsewhere, if they choose.

The team lacks starting pitching depth, but if they sign a pitcher on the free-agent market it is expected to be on a short-term deal.

The Phillies are not expected to make a big splash in the free agent market this offseason, unless they sign Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas. If they pass on Tomas or fall short in their pursuit, perhaps they will feel more comfortable eating some of the salaries they owe other players still on the roster.

The Phillies are willing to trade almost anybody this offseason. The biggest name is Cole Hamels, but the list includes Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon, Marlon Byrd, Antonio Bastardo and Carlos Ruiz. The front office would trade Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, too. Utley and Rollins have complete no-trade clauses and both have said they have no plans to waive them, but the prospect of playing on a losing team in the twilight of their careers could get them to reconsider.

During the season, Burnett waffled on whether or not he wanted to pitch next year. Of course, this does not mean he does not want to pitch. He just might not want to pitch for the Phillies. (His agent told FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that Burnett wants to pitch for a contender.) Burnett expressed his frustration toward Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure during his final start, uttering an expletive following a mound visit.

Burnett said afterward his relationship with McClure was fine, but sources in the clubhouse said Burnett was not happy with the way things went in Philly.

Both parties got what they wanted Monday. The Phillies got financial flexibility. Burnett got the ability to pitch for a winner.


Who the heck is gonna pay him more than that??

Sent from my iPhone

The Phillies are going to try to top the Sixers in the fans who cares poll for 2015. May be the only thing they win next season. They have a shot at being the most irrelevant franchise in town. Union doesn’t count, it’s soccer, we know nobody cares.

He wants to play for a contender? Who in their right minds would sign him? I’m glad he’s gone from the Phils, but he seriously needs to retire. How much money do these people need??

In a better situation, (i.e. a team that scores runs consistently for him) he could be a 5th starter. If Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson can get WS rings, there’s work out there for Burnett if he wants it.

I don’t blame him at his age to want to pitch for a contender. He pitched all of 2014 with an inguinal hernia which I believe has now been surgically repaired. He may have to take less from another team but a healthy A.J. Burnett could be a nice addition to a contending team like the Pirates who could be losing Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez to free agency.

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