A.J. Burnett Makes Sense For The Dodgers, But He Probably Won’t Play For Them

Now that Masahiro Tanaka has signed, the free agent starting pitcher market is finally starting to move. Matt Garza signed with the Brewers this weekend, and rumors are starting to pick up around Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. However, all has been quiet in the world of A.J. Burnett. The speculation has been that Burnett would either return to the Pirates or retire. That changed this afternoon:

Burnett was traded to the Pirates in 2012 after two consecutive down seasons with the Yankees. While in Pittsburgh, he significantly changed his pitching style, increasing the usage of his sinker dramatically:
Burnett_Pitch_Usage

This change paid immediate dividends. After a good 2012, he was even better in 2013, striking out 9.85 batters per nine innings (fourth best in the majors) and inducing a ground ball rate of 56.5% (second highest in majors).

How does Burnett stack up with the rest of the market? Below is a quick comparison of some remaining free agent pitchers over the past two seasons. The Dodgers have been connected to Santana and Bronson Arroyo, and Jimenez is still available.

Pitcher IP ERA- FIP- fWAR RA9 WAR
Jimenez 359.1 111 108 3.3 2.3
Santana 389.0 103 118 2.0 4.2
Arroyo 404.0 97 110 3.2 6.3
Burnett 393.1 91 85 7.0 5.9

Using the last two seasons skews the data in Burnett’s favor (both Jimenez and Santana had down years in 2012 and decent seasons in 2013), but it’s pretty clear why he’d be an attractive alternative to the rest of the free agent market. Additionally, the Pirates did not give Burnett a qualifying offer, which seems like both a foolish decision and another example of how the qualifying offer system hurts small market teams. This means that signing Burnett would not require a team to give up their first round draft pick.

In theory, signing Burnett would make perfect sense for the Dodgers. Josh Beckett‘s future is questionable, and rumors have connected them to both Arroyo and Santana. The sourcing of these rumors are suspect (agents have incentive to connect their players to large market teams), but the Dodgers might desire a short-term upgrade in the rotation while Zach Lee gets another year of development time in the minors.

The Dodgers have been hesitant to give up a draft pick under the new collective bargaining agreement system, and Burnett doesn’t carry that additional cost. Since Burnett turned 37 this month, he could probably be signed to a short-term deal. Bartolo Colon‘s two year, twenty million dollar deal with the Mets seems like a reasonable framework for a deal for Burnett. Burnett might get a higher average annual value due to his young age, but the length of the contract is probably the higher priority for the Dodgers.

All of the pieces fit, but Burnett probably won’t sign for the Dodgers. His wife is famously afraid of flying, and their home is in Maryland. The Orioles and Phillies are the most likely fits if he doesn’t re-sign with the Pirates. Additionally, Burnett had a full no-trade clause with the Yankees and turned down a trade to the Angels in 2012, so he probably doesn’t want to play in the LA area to begin with. It’s possible that the Dodgers could blow Burnett away with a much larger contract than what other teams are willing to offer, but that seems fairly unlikely given Burnett’s age and the fact that the Dodgers don’t necessarily need another starting pitcher. It’s fun to dream of Burnett in the Dodgers’ already outstanding rotation, though. Besides, he’d break the pattern of the Dodgers employing pitchers who can also hit.

This post uses the following statistics:

    • ERA-: ERA, park adjusted and compared to league average. 100 ERA- is a league average pitcher by ERA, 90 ERA- is 10% better ERA than league average, etc. Explanation here.
    • FIP-: FIP, park adjusted and compared to league average. 100 is a league average pitcher by FIP, 90 is 10% better FIP than league average, etc. Explanation here.
    • fWAR (Fangraphs wins above replacement): In this post, specifically for pitchers. A method of evaluating the overall value of pitchers, using peripheral stats rather than runs allowed. Explanation here.
    • RA9 WAR: Pitcher wins above replacement, calculated using the runs a pitcher allows as the main metric (combines fielding independent and fielding dependent metrics). Explanation here.

About

Daniel Brim grew up in the Los Angeles area and remains a Dodger fan despite currently residing in Salem, MA. As an engineer, he’s fascinated by the math and science behind the game of baseball, which probably explains a lot. He started “Blog To The Score” in late 2013 to dig deeper into the numbers behind the Dodgers. In its brief lifespan, it gained attention from local and national media. You can find him spending too much time in the comments section or on Twitter.


461 comments
ABMoseSchrute
ABMoseSchrute

I'm still on cloud nine after the Yuniesky betancourt news from yesterday.

JackEdNate
JackEdNate

Just started House of Cards last Night. Not sure how I feel about it.

Read more in depth show reviews at my Blog: www.dodgersdigest.com

Batted Bob
Batted Bob

Hey Mike, I figured out why the site wasn't working for me yesterday. I was typing www.dodgerdigest.com into the address bar. This is why I was having trouble. You should probably fix this. 

DodgersFan
DodgersFan

@Batted Bob yeah he should by the domain rights for that and dd.co, which is what i keep typing into the address bar

Batted Bob
Batted Bob

@TheConman @Batted Bob @ JohnM I have one but I forgot the password & email I used. I have a couple different emails that I sign up for stuff with and I have trouble keeping track.

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

@Batted Bob Are you having less problems trying to access Blog of the Score? That also is run by Livefyre but none of us have issues.

Batted Bob
Batted Bob

@ JohnM @Batted Bob or anything I could possibly type in on accident. Am I expected to just bookmark every new blog that Mike and Brim and Chad and Dustin start? I am running out of room after bookmarking every one of VND's comment screenshots.

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

Klaw touched on the one thing that most don't in his capsules on both Lee and Anderson. Lee has huge battle mentality or make up as some scouts call it. Anderson I havent gotten to see close up yet to say one way or the other but Windle als battles real well. As has been the case. Logan did a great job last year and will again this year. He has also picked up some youngsters we will be hearing about in the international market as well. Bottom line is we are gonna be good for a long long time! Its great to be a Dodger Fan once again!!!1!

Batted Bob
Batted Bob

I listened to Keith Law's Podcast on the way to work today. He discussed the following teams farm systems:

Astros

Cubs

Mets

Cards

Red Sox

Yankees

Orioles

Rays 

Blue Jays


Really wish he would have covered more teams outside the AL East.

DodgersFan
DodgersFan

@Batted Bob I CARE SO MUCH ABOUT THE METS FARMSYSTEM. LITERALLY MY FAVORITE FARMSYSTEM

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

The great JohnM admits his error: "I whiffed on living in Ohio this past year"

DBrim
DBrim moderator

The "great" JohnM admits his error: "I whiffed on scouting Greinke's bat flip"

DBrim
DBrim moderator

Accurate.

DodgersFan
DodgersFan

The great Keith Law admits his error: "I whiffed on Pederson last year"

DodgersFan
DodgersFan

@Disgruntled Goat @ JohnM fyi he admits he's wrong but not until literally everything is against him (i.e. Puig hitting .400 at the major league level, every other scout ever rating Pederson higher than him)