Saturday, August 23, 2008

Really? A.J. Burnett?

The Baltimore Sun has Dan Connolly and Peter Schmuck debate whether or not the Orioles should sign Mark Teixeira. Connolly votes yes, and Schmuck votes no. Without getting into the merits of Connolly's argument, Schmuck votes no because the Orioles should instead spend the money on starting pitching, which he correctly determines the O's need desperately. However, he also correctly notes that CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets won't be signing with the Orioles. And thus he says the O's should go after A.J. Burnett. The same A.J. Burnett that will be 32 next season and who has only twice in his career pitched at least 200 innings. To be fair to Burnett, barring a late season injury, he is likely to exceed that number again in 2008. To be fair to the Orioles checkbook, Burnett also has a 4.51 ERA and 1.41 WHIP this season. Burnett signed a five year, $55 million deal with the Blue Jays after the 2005 season, but he has an opt-out clause this year. He is slated to earn $12 million each of the next two seasons.

Burnett would not opt out of his contract if he and his agent were not reasonably sure that they could get a deal that would pay significantly more--for significantly longer--than his current salary. And therein lies the problem. MASN conveniently just put up the following graphic tonight, showing just how well a few "recent" big-money free agent signings have worked out:

Kevin Brown: $105 mil/7 years
Darren Dreifort: $55 mil/5 years
Mike Hampton: $121 mil/8 years
Kei Igawa: $46 mil/5 years
Gary Matthews, Jr: $50 mil/5 years
Chan Ho Park: $65 mil/5 years
Richie Sexson: $50 mil/4 years
Mo Vaughn: $80 mil/6 years
Barry Zito: $126 mil/7 years

Quite simply, these huge deals almost never work out (Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez are the only ones that come to mind), especially when injury-prone pitchers are involved. Schmuck is right to argue that the Orioles need lots of pitching; he's wrong that the Orioles should go after A.J. Burnett. I sincerely hope this is the last time he floats that horrible idea.

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