Burrell a bargain for Rays
January, 5, 2009
The Rays took advantage of the market glut in sluggers with bad defensive profiles and scored a major bargain in signing Pat Burrell. Burrell becomes their full-time DH, providing power as well as needed plate discipline, with Matt Joyce platooning with someone like Fernando Perez (a switch-hitter who can also back up center) or Willy Aybar (another switch-hitter who can fake a few infield positions). The Rays received next to nothing last year from their DHs -- a motley crew headed by Cliff Floyd. If avoiding the field keeps Burrell from wearing down over the course of 2009, this could be a two-win upgrade for Tampa Bay. It also increases the Rays' chances to boost their runs scored enough to make up for some likely regression in their runs allowed total. Between this acquisition and the trade for Joyce, Gabe Gross appears to be out of a roster spot, and Tampa's lineup is complete, with no obvious weakness anywhere on the diamond. If you're looking for a negative here, Burrell is the type of player who does not age well -- he has "old man's skills," meaning power and patience, but is a poor defender and is a 20 runner on the 20-80 scale. He faded very badly down the stretch last year, hitting .191/.295/.365 in August and September amid rumors that he was playing through a foot injury, although the finalization of this contract indicates that he checked out physically. Compare this to the deal the Phillies, who let Burrell walk without offering him arbitration, gave Raul Ibaņez: one extra year at a marginal cost of $14 million as well as the loss of their first-round draft pick, for a player four years older and worse defensively. It also resets the market for this type of player (all bat, little or no glove, no speed) to something more reflective of the supply (deep, with Adam Dunn and Jason Giambi still available) and demand (shallow), which would indicate that Ibanez's deal will continue to stand out as high in dollars and years for a player who was not the best in his class this winter.