The Phillies and A.J. Burnett met up yesterday, sat across from each other at a long, wooden conference table, their decisions flickering through their minds. Both could feel doubt creeping in, before choosing to end the torment and just get this over with. Were either of them interested in A.J.'s $15 million option?
"NO!" they both suddenly shouted simultaneously.
Burnett made 34 starts this past season, his first and only as a Phillie. He had been an acquisition later in the 2014 offseason, filling a rotation spot and giving the Phillies a weirdly formidable Cole Hamels-Cliff Lee-A.J. Burnett top three. Unlike Lee, Burnett lasted the whole season.
But by the end of the year, a full season of pro ball took its toll on the 37-year-old's body, and Burnett was forced to think long and hard about which barnyard animal's poop he was emulating.
Burnett has thrown 202 2/3 innings this season, his most since 2009. How does he feel now?
"Horse[bleep]," Burnett said.
Bold choice. A horse is a rather large animal. Did you know that if a horse's feces went unchecked for a year in a 12 x 12 foot stall, it would wind up over six feet high?
But in that respect, he was right. Burnett led the league in several categories, most of which could be indicative of his exhaustion: games started (34), losses (18), earned runs (109), and walks (96). If the Phillies are shifting into a more youthful (gasp) rebuilding (GASP) phase, a pitched-to-death, glued-together A.J. Burnett doesn't make much sense.
His plan to just get all younger players to slow down did not work.
Similarly, Mike Adams, whose acquisition was the single favored one of his 2013 Phillies signing class (Delmon Young, Michael Young), is not a part of it. The 36-year-old was supposed to be the solid eighth inning guy to back up the solid ninth inning guy. He wound up being more of a "forgot he was on the team" guy, in that by July 2013 he was already having shoulder surgery and missing the rest of the year. This past season, he made it to June before a frayed labrum canceled the rest of his season.
Whatever temptation remained to bring him up was not seductive enough to trick the Phillies. Again.
So, the 2015 option on his two-year, $12 million deal was also not exercised by the team, saving them $6 million. It's a shame, because when he's pitched, he's pitched well (3.50 ERA, 44 SO, 19 BB), but apparently the league won't let him pitch from a surgical table. Who knew?