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Reviews are good on Burrell deal

5

January

The Rays signing of Pat Burrell seems to be getting good reviews from the initial analysts. Here are a few excerpts:

From mlb.com's Fred Claire:

In the most basic evaluation, the Rays have acquired a steady player in every sense of the word and Burrell figures to make a smooth transition to Tampa Bay.

He will run hot and cold with the bat, but in the end, he will produce home runs and RBIs. He will be great in the clubhouse and represents everything manager Joe Maddon and the Rays appreciate in a player.

From ESPN.com's Buster Olney:

But it is reasonable to think that Tampa Bay may field the best offense, coupled with the best defense and perhaps the deepest rotation, in the AL East. A lot will ride on how effectively the Rays can plug the back end of their bullpen.

From ESPN.com's Keith Law:

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 Ibañez: 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.

From ESPN.com's Rob Neyer:

Fresh off winning the World Series, Pat Burrell is apparently heading to a new team, a new league … and a substantially lower salary

What a fantastic move. As you've no doubt read, this winter there's a buyer's market for sluggardly sluggers like Burrell and Giambi. Burrell earned roughly $28 million with the Phillies over the past two seasons. That was too much. Because of his obvious limitations -- he's not only a left fielder, but a poor one -- he was really worth something like $20 million over those two seasons. He's in his early 30s now, and moving to the better league's best division, so we may assume he'll be worth less than $20 million over the next two seasons.

How much less? We can't exactly know, but $16 million for two years seems just about right. Especially considering that he's actually more valuable as a DH than as a left fielder. And while it would have been easy for the Rays to rest on their considerable laurels and assume that a full season of David Price will give them all the boost they need, it's a lot smarter to make a real effort to get better, because some of the things that went right in 2008 will go wrong in 2009. Bravos and Huzzahs are definitely in order.

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:44am]

    

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