Tampa Bay Rays sign free-agent Pat Burrell
UDPATE, 5:45 Executive VP Andrew Friedman said Burrell, who will primarily be the DH, adds power and balance and gives the Rays a better lineup than they had last season: "Any time you add a hitter like that to the middle of your lineup you're a much improved team.''
And while he said the Rays will still look at other addtions, they will have to be creative in doing so because "this signing is a major commitment of our resources and it will dramatically hinder our flexibility going forward.''
UPDATE, 4:59 Burrell said he was impressed with the Rays during the World Series, thinks they have a good chance to return to the playoffs, and once he knew he wasn't going to return to the Phillies started looking at them closely.
"This is a team I had a lot of interest in going to,'' Burrell said. "I think this team is going to be competitive for a long time. ... I'm here to help. Anything and everything I can do to help this team win, I'll do.' '
UPDATE, 4:03: The Tampa Bay Rays' deal with free-agent OF/DH Pat Burrell is completed and confirmed, two years for $16-million, and will be announced later today.
Burrell, as the Rays point out, is one of six major-leaguers to hit 20 or more homers in each of the last eight seasons, joining Carlos Delgado, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez.
And here's an interesting piece of trivia about the deal from ESPN's Jayson Stark:
"He'll also join an exclusive group of players who went from one World Series team to another between seasons. Since 1970, just four other players -- and only two other position players -- played against a team in the World Series one year and then played for that team in their first game the next season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau: Edgar Renteria (2004 St. Louis Cardinals, 2005 Boston Red Sox), Gary Thomasson (1978 New York Yankees, 1979 Los Angeles Dodgers), Tommy John (1978 Dodgers, 1979 Yankees) and Don Gullett (1976 Reds, 1977 Yankees).
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The Rays are close to finalizing a deal to sign free agent OF/DH Pat Burrell to a two-year contract.
Burrell, 32, hit .250 with 33 homers (ninth most in the NL) and 86 RBIs for the world champ Phillies. He would give the Rays the righthanded power bat they were looking for to balance their lineup. The deal, for about $16-million, is likely to be completed today as Burrell is undergoing a physical exam.
The Rays had been considering a group of hitters including Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Milton Bradley and Garret Anderson. Burrell has spent his entire career with the Phillies since coming to the majors in 2000. He hit a career high 37 homers in 2002, and has averaged nearly 30 a year each season.
Signing Burrell could also enhance the chances of the Rays retaining free-agent OF Rocco Baldelli, as they could use both in the outfield or as a DH. Baldelli has been limited in playing time due to medical issues, but after a recently updated diagnosis he hopes to be able to play on a much more regular basis.
The Phillies declined to retain Burrell and instead signed Raul Ibanez to a three-year deal for a reported $31.5-million.
Burrell has a career .257 average over his nine big-league seasons, and does walk, and strike out, a lot too. Last season, he had 102 and 136 strikeouts in 645 plate appearances, for an on-base percentage of .367. He had a .507 slugging percentage, and an OPS of .874.
Burrell, the first overall pick of the 1998 draft, clearly had hoped to stay with the Phillies. Here is what he told Paul Hagen of the Daily News in December when it became obvious he wouldn't be back:
"I'm disappointed. I can't lie about that. But I can't say I'm upset about it, either, because when I think about my time there I have nothing but good things to say. The city, the fans, have been behind me from the very beginning. That's the hard part, especially with respect to what happened last year, with us winning the whole thing. It was very meaningful to me to be a part of something like that. But you have to move on.
"You know, there's a business [aspect] to this sport. And as a player you'd better learn to accept that or else it's going to be pretty frustrating for you. I was aware that, most likely, the team was going to go the other way. At the same time, I thought there was a chance I might be back."
And here's what Hagen wrote about Burrell:
He's still just 32 years old. He hit 33 home runs last season. Only three righthanded hitters in the National League (Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and St. Louis' Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols) had more. While he rarely shared himself with the media, he was immensely popular with his teammates, who respected his toughness and work ethic. And he was consistent in talking about how much he enjoyed playing in Philadelphia and that he would love to return.
On the other hand, he recognized that he was making $14 million and doesn't run as well as he used to and routinely came out of games for a defensive replacement or a pinch-runner in the late innings.
So after he doubled against the wall to lead off the bottom of the seventh against Tampa Bay in Game 5 of the World Series -- the score was tied, 3-3, at the time -- the realization of what it all might mean started to hit him when Eric Bruntlett trotted onto the field to run for him.
"I was coming off the field and I started looking around and thinking, 'This might be it.' At the same time, here we were possibly about to win the World Series," he said. "On a personal level, I remember hitting the ball and thinking it was way over the fence. Then getting a chance to be on second with nobody out and [Shane] Victorino up, I thought we were going to get [Bruntlett] over and we were going to get him in. That's kind of where I was at."
That's exactly what happened. Bruntlett went to third when Victorino grounded out to second and scored what proved to the winning run when Pedro Feliz singled.