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Burnett on the Block?

June 17, 2008 | By RotoRob | comment on this post

The Toronto media is speculating that A.J. Burnett would welcome the idea of leaving town; in fact, he may even be trying to engineer his own demise as a Jay, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star suggests.

While he’s finally stayed healthy for Toronto, Burnett still hasn’t lived up to that overinflated contract he signed after the 2005 season. So talk that he’d trigger his opt out clause after the 2008 season — thereby walking away from $24 million for 2009-10 – seems bizarre.

Would Burnett – struggling through the worst season of his career – choose now to head back on to the market? As sad as it seems, he’d probably make out like a bandit, despite the crappy 2008 he’s enduring. But that speaks more to the paucity of quality starting pitching out there.

Case in point: Griffin put together an interesting list — the 15 starters who currently earn an average of more than $12 million per year. Here’s the list, along with my assessment of their respective values: Johan Santana (no quibbling with that); Carlos Zambrano (also well worth it); Barry Zito (oops); Jake Peavy (not doing as well as his Cy Young season last year, but still pretty damn fine); Andy Pettitte (getting worse as the season progresses); Jason Schmidt (six starts since the start of last year and no idea when his next outing is coming); Mike Hampton (almost ready to make his first appearance in the majors since 2005); Roy Oswalt (looking better recently, but suffering through his worst season); Mark Buehrle (unable to consolidate his nice recovery in 2007, but looking very strong lately); John Smoltz (was getting better with age until the arm woes caught up with him); Roy Halladay (he’s been superb); Pedro Martinez (struggling to refind his form); Randy Johnson (the Old Unit is just getting ripped lately); Chris Carpenter (he’s made exactly one start since the beginning of last year and now Dr. Andrews is taking another look at him…uh, yeah); and Bronson Arroyo (has been sliding for two years now).

So of this list of 15, I’d say only four are actually worth this kind of money (notwithstanding the injured pitchers, of course). Examined from this angle, perhaps Burnett and his woeful 4.90 ERA are actually worth $12 million per season.

Jays are in dead last in the AL East, but sit just six games back of the Wild Card. So, on the one hand, holding onto Burnett to make a run at the WC might make sense. But if he’s determined to leave – and recent actions suggest he is – why not deal him to a team with an excess of offense and try to address your lack of power?

A big stick may be just the ticket for the pitching-rich Jays, assuming the trading partner would be able to work out an extension with Burnett.

Burnett could be a key name to watch as we inch closer to the trading deadline. Other starters who could be available, depending on how their teams do in the interim, include: C.C. Sabathia (a free agent next year for the disappointing Tribe), Brad Penny, Rich Harden, Vicente Padilla, Kevin Millwood (someone please explain to me what happened to this dude), Zack Greinke, Livan Hernandez and Joe Blanton.

Burnett has already suggested he’d be perfectly copasetic being dealt to the Cubbies, but other teams that will likely be in the hunt for his services include the Yanks, Mets, Braves and Dodgers.

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