When A.J. Burnett inked his recent 1 year, 16 million dollar deal to pitch in Philadelphia next season the first thought I had was how fortunate the St. Louis Cardinals are that they have been doing things the right way when scouting and drafting to fill the internal pitching pipeline. Then I saw how much worse it actually could be for the Phillies.
Burnett technically is guaranteed $23.5M if he wants to pitch second year. $15M for ’14, $1M buyout plus $7.5M for ’15
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) February 16, 2014
So, a 37 year old, 15 year MLB veteran that went 10-11 last season is actually worth 23.5 million dollars and 2 years on a major league roster? In case anyone has forgotten, this is the same guy that took the ball in game 1 of the 2013 NLDS against our beloved Cardinals and proceeded to allow the first 8 batters to reach in the 3rd inning before being chased out of the game. He finished his 2013 post season 0-1 with 31.50 ERA in 2 IP while giving up 7 earned runs on 6 hits, 1 HR, 4 walks, and 1 hit batsman.
A move like this makes me feel very fortunate that I am not a Philadelphia Phillies fan. If they have to go to these lengths to fill their starting rotation then they have done something terribly wrong with regards to either their philosophy towards their minor league system or their actual identification of players that could project out as major league starting pitchers during their scouting process.
On the flip side of that coin, a move like this also makes me feel very fortunate that I grew up rooting for the Redbirds because they are nowhere near having to overpay for a rotational band-aid that a guy like A.J. Burnett represents. They committed to their minor league system long ago, and it’s truly paying dividends now so much so that they have an overabundance of arms competing to fill the 5 rotation spots this spring.
Barring an unfortunate injury or some type of trade, it’s almost a certainty that the Cardinals are going to begin this season with Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, and Michael Wacha entrenched as three-fifths of the starting rotation. The last two spots will be one of the more interesting battles this spring as Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, and Carlos Martinez look to fill the final two spots.
Surely, Jaime Garcia will take spot 4 if his shoulder proves healthy if only to provide left hand balance to the rotation. That leaves 1 spot, and it’s going to be a flat out battle before a decision is finally reached. My early money is on Lynn seizing that spot, with Kelly relegated to long relief/6th starter in case of emergency, and Martinez filling the 8th inning role ahead of closer Trevor Rosenthal.
Speaking of money, that’s the best part, and what drove me to write about this all in the first place.
For much less than the 16 million dollars the Phillies will pay A.J. Burnett in the upcoming season, the Cardinals are going to get production from Lynn, Kelly, Miller, Wacha, Martinez, and Garcia. St. Louis is in a great place with regards to their pitching to be sure, but it wasn’t arrived at without careful planning on management’s end, expert execution by the scouting group, and a quality development system in place in the minor leagues.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.