Tag: A.J. Burnett

Pirates’ Burnett Becomes 32nd Pitcher with 2,500 Career Strikeouts

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett reached a milestone during the first inning of Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs, becoming the 32nd pitcher in MLB history to record 2,500 or more career strikeouts, per MLB Stat of the Day.

Entering the contest with 2,499 strikeouts, the 38-year-old Burnett got off to a rocky start in the first inning, allowing four of the five batters he faced to reach base.

With one run already in and the bases loaded, Burnett got ahead in the count against Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler, who foul-tipped a 1-2 pitch into the glove of Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli for the milestone strikeout.

Burnett then induced a groundout from Cubs catcher Miguel Montero to end the inning, but Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta hit a solo homer in the bottom of the second to extend the lead to 2-0.

Burnett did settle down to hold the Cubs scoreless over the next four frames, eventually finishing with five strikeouts in six innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits and two walks.

While always above average at striking batters out, Burnett took the slow-and-steady path to 2,500 if compared to most of the other pitchers who have reached the mark.

He only has three 200-strikeout seasons among his 17 MLB campaigns, with those coming in 2002 (203), 2008 (231) and 2013 (209).

He does, however, have 12 straight seasons with triple-digit strikeouts, as he’s made 20 or more appearances every year since 2004.

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MLB Playoff Picture: How Injuries Might Affect Postseason Standings

As Major League Baseball’s 2015 season winds down, injuries have a chance to affect the postseason standings.

Some clubs are counting on potential returns to spark their postseason push, while others face the reality of what a devastating injury means to their chances.

Can the New York Yankees capture the American League East if Mark Teixeira lands on the disabled list? Will Denard Span’s return give the struggling Washington Nationals a lift in the National League East?

Let’s take a look at a major injury from one team in each division and examine what it means for that particular club’s playoff hopes.


AL East

New York Yankees

The division race between the Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays is the tightest in baseball. The Yankees lead the surging Blue Jays by one game.

Inconsistency has plagued the Yankees in August. The club is 5-5 in its last 10 games, but the offense put up 16 combined runs in back-to-back wins over the Minnesota Twins in a recent series.

The biggest question mark moving forward is the health of Teixeira. The All-Star first baseman fouled a ball off his leg and had to be removed from Monday’s game. 

Manager Joe Girardi told Mike Rose of Newsday that the injury is a bone bruise.

“He’s got a pretty good bone bruise,” Girardi said on Wednesday.

Rose noted that it doesn’t appear Teixeira can play through it.

“Girardi added that Teixeira is ‘not a whole lot better’ and couldn’t even pinch hit Wednesday if needed.”

Girardi told Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees blog that a trip to the DL isn’t out of the question.

It’s concerning. I was concerned when he did it right away because of where it hit. Forget the padding that you put on, but there’s no padding when you hit it off your shin. That’s straight bone. I was concerned last night.

Losing Teixeira for an extended period of time isn’t good for the team’s hopes of capturing a division title. The slugging first baseman leads the club with 31 home runs and 79 RBI.

With the Yankees playing the Blue Jays seven more times in September, getting Teixeira back quickly is important. The Blue Jays and Yankees have the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked offenses in baseball according to ESPN.

With Teixeira, the Yankees would have a tough time holding off the new-look Blue Jays. The club was swept by the Blue Jays in early August and was limited to just one run in three games. Add in that the Blue Jays are relatively healthy and on an 11-3 tear in August.

Without him, it’s difficult to imagine the Yankees winning enough games to capture the division title.


AL Central

Minnesota Twins

The AL Central race is essentially over. 

The second-place Twins trail the Kansas City Royals by 13.5 games, but the second wild-card spot is within reach.

The Twins trail by three games, but injuries are beginning to take a toll. The biggest question mark for the club entering 2015 was pitching. The Twins lost their best reliever and arguably their best starting pitcher in recent days.

Glen Perkins is dealing with a neck injury that’s reportedly been bothering the closer for nearly two months.

Derek Wetmore of 1500 ESPN reports that Perkins is scheduled to receive a cortisone shot in his neck prior to Wednesday’s game. 

He’s struggled recently and has allowed eight runs in his last nine appearances.

Phil Hughes landed on the 15-day DL with lower-back pain. 

The right-hander was pulled from his last start with the injury after giving up seven runs on nine hits in just three innings of work on Sunday.

Manager Paul Molitor told ESPN that he wasn’t aware of any discomfort prior to Hughes’ start.

“Quite transparently, I knew nothing,” said manager Paul Molitor. “And I don’t think that anybody thought anything was going on until he got out there on Tuesday.”

If the Twins hope to continue their postseason push, the pitching staff needs to step up. Rookie Tyler Duffey and reliever Trevor May are being promoted to the starting rotation and need to provide the Twins with solid performances. 

Even though the pitching staff improved immensely this season, the loss of Hughes and Perkins seems too much to overcome.


AL West

Houston Astros

The Astros are enjoying their best season in a decade.

There’s still plenty of work to do as the Los Angeles Angels trail by just 2.5 games. 

The offense has struggled over the Astros’ last 10 games and averages just 2.7 runs during that span. The club went 4-6 during that stretch.

Help is on the way in the form of George Springer. The outfielder has been on the DL since early July with a fractured wrist. 

According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Springer played catch on Tuesday and is progressing in his rehab.

Springer told Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle that he’s nearing a rehabilitation assignment.

I didn’t really know what to do, to be honest with you. I prepared myself for no and yes. I got told yes and it was just kind of a relief. It’s obviously been hard these last six weeks to not be able to play out there with these guys. I’m almost there.

The right fielder could return in late August or early September. His presence gives the Astros a powerful bat in their lineup. Houston leads the league in home runs and Springer offers another threat in that department. 

With seven games remaining against the Angels, Springer will likely be available for all of them if he continues progressing. With the way Houston is pitching and the offensive boost it will receive with Springer, the club should make the postseason.


NL East

Washington Nationals

The Nationals have slumped to become a .500 baseball team. The club is 4.5 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East.

The offense continues to sputter without Span. The Nationals’ .248 batting average is six points below league average. Before Tuesday’s 15-6 win over the Colorado Rockies, the club lost six games in a row and showed no signs of busting out of its slump.

Span has been sidelined with a back injury since early July. He’s been on a rehab assignment with the organization’s minor league affiliates and could return in late August.

Before the injury, Span hit .304 with five home runs for the Nationals. 

Span told Fox Sports that he felt good following his latest rehab game.

I haven’t sprinted like that or reacted like that to a ball in a month, so it felt good considering I haven’t done anything like that in a month. My legs felt a little like Jell-O because I haven’t played in awhile. … But overall, a good day.

His return could provide the Nationals a spark. With Span, the Nationals are 35-24 but just 23-35 without the outfielder.

The team’s morale is low, but the Nationals still have a ton of talent, and the return of a key player can help turn things around. The club has struggled finding an ideal leadoff hitter during Span’s absence, but his return will solve those issues while helping to raise the team’s low batting average.

With the type of talent that’s on the roster, it wouldn’t be surprising if Span’s return sparks a September charge.


NL Central

Pittsburgh Pirates

It’s unlikely the Pirates will catch the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals, but the club continues trying to strengthen its grip on a wild-card spot.

The team boasts one of the best rotations in baseball and should benefit from the return of A.J. Burnett. The Pirates have the third-best ERA in the majors at 3.21.

Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that manager Clint Hurdle says that Burnett is feeling well and could return to the mound soon.

The 38-year-old has a 3.06 ERA in 21 starts. 

His return should boost an already superb rotation and give the Pirates an opportunity to win ballgames in the postseason.


NL West

San Francisco Giants

The Giants aren’t healthy. 

The club has multiple players missing from its starting rotation and lineup. The biggest might be Mike Leake, who the Giants acquired at the trade deadline this year.

Leake is dealing with a hamstring strain that’s cost him his last three starts. He was expected to rejoin the rotation on Tuesday, but soreness continues to keep him on the DL and he’s listed as day-to-day.

Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com reports that the club’s plan is to have him return this weekend against the Pirates.

“Each day it gets better,” Leake told Pavlovic. “It’s just not ready. You can only go as fast as your body lets you.”

Outfielder Hunter Pence was placed on the DL on Tuesday with a moderate oblique strain according to Pavlovic. He’s expected to miss a few weeks with the injury.

One could throw a dart at a list of names and find an injured player that’s important for the Giants’ postseason push. Yet Leake was acquired at the deadline in hopes of solidifying the rotation. The organization gave up young prospects for the pending free agent to help the club down the stretch. 

The Giants trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by two games and the final wild-card spot by three games. The return of Leake, among others, gives the Giants a strong chance of pushing past the Dodgers for the NL West title.


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Why the Addition of A.J. Burnett Isn’t Enough for the Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates reunited with a familiar friend Friday. Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that they signed starting pitcher A.J. Burnett to a one-year deal.  

Burnett, who will turn 38 in January, is coming off a 2014 regular season in which he performed poorly, going 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA in 34 games started.  

That last statistic is key here, however: Thirty-four starts matched the most games he has ever started in a single season.  

In fact, Burnett has been one of the most durable pitchers in the league throughout the last seven seasons, making 30 or more starts in all seven of those years.  

Burnett spent two seasons with the Pirates from 2012-2013 before signing with the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the start of last season.  In 61 games with the Pirates, Burnett compiled a 26-21 record and a 3.41 ERA—the lowest ERA he has compiled among the five major league teams he has played for in his career.

As it remains uncertain whether the Pirates will reach deals on new contracts with either Edinson Volquez or Francisco Liriano, bringing Burnett back for a season makes total sense.  

Still, the signing of Burnett alone probably isn’t enough to propel the Pirates back into the playoffs for the third straight season in 2015.  

With the level of talent among starting pitchers the Pirates currently have, it would not be surprising to see Burnett penciled into the No. 2 slot in the rotation.

Barring any huge signing, Gerrit Cole will likely head into the 2015 season as the starting pitcher on Opening Day.  Aside from both him and Burnett, the Pirates have Jeff Locke and Vance Worley as two starters with considerable experience in the big leagues.  

While Cole has shown that he can dominate on the mound, Locke has been very inconsistent.  In the 2013 regular season, he owned a 2.15 ERA in the first half before pitching to an ERA north of 6.00 in the second half, but he still finished the season with a 3.52 ERA overall.

Then there is Worley, who has been up and down from the minors to the big leagues.  He pitched well during the time he spent with the club in 2014, going 8-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 18 games.

Still, it will not be easy to win with that rotation in a National League Central Division that is growing tougher and tougher, as teams such as the Chicago Cubs are stacked with rising stars.  Pirates general manager Neal Huntington must continue to work hard during the offseason and pursue a solid starter who can bolster that rotation.  

The signing of Burnett was a smart move by Huntington.  But in order for the Pirates to reach the postseason and be considered legitimate World Series contenders, more work needs to be done.


*Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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A.J. Burnett Takes Less Money to Return to Where Everything Clicked

Despite frequent insistence to the contrary, free-agent signings are almost always about the money. That’s what it’s all about, you know.

But not for A.J. Burnett. On Friday, he decided to be a very rare exception to the rule. And for good reasons, to boot.

As the Pittsburgh Pirates were all too glad to announce on Twitter, Burnett has signed a one-year contract with them for the 2015 season. And as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported, they were able to ink the 37-year-old right-hander for fairly cheap:

In light of how much starting pitchers are going for these days, that’s not such a bad price to pay for a pitcher of Burnett’s caliber. For perspective, his 2015 salary will be exactly the same as Jason Vargas’.

Of course, there is a funny side to Burnett signing for only $8.5 million. He could have made $12.75 million had he exercised his player option to stay with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2015. Here’s Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports with a bit of math and snark:


But quips aside, that Burnett took less money to trade Philadelphia for Pittsburgh isn’t too surprising.

While the Pirates have made the postseason two straight years, the Phillies have missed October three straight years and are now looking to rebuild. Burnett also didn’t have such a great time in a Phillies uniform in 2014, posting a 4.59 ERA and a career-high 18 losses.

Burnett was considerably better in his two seasons with the Pirates in 2012 and 2013, racking up a 3.41 ERA across nearly 400 innings. Also, Joel Sherman of the New York Post has heard from Burnett’s agent that he’s legitimately fond of Pittsburgh:

Given how Burnett had a rough time in New York with the Yankees (4.79 ERA in three seasons) before he had a rough time in Philadelphia, the easy narrative to point to is that the more low-key environment of Pittsburgh is the right place for him.

And there might actually be something to that.

Early on in 2012, Burnett recalled to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News the story of the first inning of his first game at PNC Park. The first three batters reached, but the crowd didn’t get anxious.

“I could imagine what (Yankee Stadium) would sound like, and there was about two words that came out of the crowd here,” he said. “So it’s just different. You’re a little less on edge. Some guys thrive in that.”

So, by all accounts, yes, Burnett is returning to a place where he’s comfortable. Nothing wrong with that.

Also worth discussing, however, is that Burnett may have been motivated to return to Pittsburgh to cure what ailed his pitching in 2014.

When Burnett arrived in Pittsburgh, he was coming off back-to-back seasons with an ERA over 5.00 in 2010 and 2011. He had problems with both walks and home runs in those seasons. Meaning, yeah, a lot of work needed to be done.

And a lot of work was done. There are numbers that make that clear, as Burnett went from being a strikeout pitcher with walk and homer problems to a strikeout pitcher who was better at limiting walks, getting ground balls and keeping the ball in the yard.

Courtesy of FanGraphs:

Granted, you can point out that the move to the National League helped. So, too, did the move from Yankee Stadium to PNC Park, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the league.

But the Pirates did make one major change with Burnett, and it’s not hard to spot in this graph from Brooks Baseball:

Before Burnett arrived in Pittsburgh, his four-seam fastball was his primary heater. That changed once Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage got a hold of him, and that’s no surprise. As Chris Cwik noted at Sports on Earth, the sinker is kind of Searage’s thing.

For Burnett, de-emphasizing his four-seamer in favor of his sinker worked like a charm. The pitch got ground balls nearly 59 percent of the time it was put in play between 2012 and 2013, making it largely responsible for his improved ground-ball habit.

However, it is notable that Burnett didn’t scrap his four-seamer entirely. It still played a big role in his arsenal. Searage will tell you there’s a reason for that.

“I believe the two fastballs complement each other,” he told Cwik. “The hitter has to respect both unless you’re primarily a heavy sinker pitcher. However, even then, you must keep them honest to both sides of the zone.”

That part about the hitter having to respect both pitches unless you’re a sinker-heavy pitcher? Take another look at the graph, and you can see how that’s relevant to Burnett’s 2014 season.

He got away from the balance between his sinker and four-seamer that he had in Pittsburgh, and he was hurt by it:

Based on appearances, the overuse of Burnett’s sinker essentially watered it down in 2014. That’s something Searage should be able to correct in 2015.

If so, that should get Burnett’s ground-ball habit back on track, as his ground-ball rate sunk to 50.9 with the Phillies in 2014. Even if that’s all Searage is able to fix, he’ll have done enough.

He’ll have done more than enough, however, if he can also patch up Burnett’s command. He went from a 3.0 BB/9 in Pittsburgh to a 4.0 BB/9 in Philadelphia. Per BaseballSavant.com, that was largely a function of fewer of his heaters finding the strike zone.

From the looks of things, the fix for that could be as simple as getting his release point a little lower:

Granted, we’re talking about only a subtle change. But as the drop from where Burnett was in 2011 to where he was in 2012 and 2013 can vouch, a subtle change can make a huge difference.

All told, you’re looking at a couple of makable changes that, if made, could easily wash away Burnett’s lousy 2014 season and get him back to where he was with the Pirates. And even if the Pirates can’t get him all the way back to being the guy he was in 2012 and 2013, at least getting him reasonably close would result in them having a solid No. 3/4-type starter.

If it comes to that, two things will be known for sure: The Pirates will know they made a good investment, and Burnett will know he made the right choice.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.  

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A.J. Burnett to Pirates: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Starting pitcher A.J. Burnett enjoyed two of his best seasons as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he will look to recapture that magic in 2015.

The Pirates announced the deal via Twitter:

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com noted the money involved:

Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review had Burnett’s thoughts:

The Pirates had more Burnett quotes:

Burnett spent the 2014 campaign with the Philadelphia Phillies, going 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA. As pointed out by MLB on Fox, those numbers were a far cry from his production in Pittsburgh:

Although Burnett could have remained in Philly by exercising a $12.75 million player option, he decided to test the open market instead after declining it.

Burnett actually lost money by opting out, but the move means that he will be part of a contending team that has reached the postseason in consecutive years.

He is a volatile pitcher, as evidenced by his career record of 155-150 with a 4.04 ERA, but Burnett experienced a career resurgence in Pittsburgh after a few up-and-down seasons with the New York Yankees.

Burnett will be 38 when the 2015 season starts, so he may not have much time remaining as an MLB pitcher, but the Pirates may have a steal on their hands if they can catch lightning in a bottle twice.


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MLB Rumors: Latest Trade and Free-Agent Rumblings from Around the League

Winter might be the time you like to cuddle in your blankets, but it’s also the time MLB players are getting set to move around.

Baseball is unlike any other sport in that an exorbitant amount of players change homes during the offseason. The winter months are truly a time of activity for MLB clubs, as general managers across the league make acquisitions in order to put together their rosters.

Through trades and free agency, GMs and front offices put countless hours of work into constructing their teams. There’s no hibernation for them.

The work starts early, evidenced by the bevy of rumors already making their way through the MLB rumor mill. A few notable ones are discussed below.


Yasmany Tomas

Yasmany Tomas, 24, is the top Cuban slugger available this offseason. Naturally, his market is pretty competitive. We don’t know which teams are in the mix at this point, but Andy Martino of the New York Daily News keyed us in on one team that likely won’t be:

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors and Jorge Arangure of Vice Sports tweeted that there are multiple teams actively courting him:

It has taken a while for the market to really heat up for the Cuban prospect. He has major power and a decent arm, but his contact skills against breaking pitches surely hasn’t impressed scouts. Ben Badler of Baseball America pointed out a few of his flaws at the plate:

Tomas did show some swing-and-miss tendencies at the WBC with an uppercut stroke and trouble handling good breaking pitches. Three months after the WBC, when Cuba took a team to the U.S. last summer to face the college national team, the U.S. power arms were able to exploit some of those holes by beating him with good velocity up and in and getting him to swing through soft stuff in and out of the zone.

The potential is there for him to be a solid contributor at the big league level. That is, of course, if he corrects those problems. Major leaguers will exploit those weaknesses.

Teams are apparently ready to move past those flaws and sign him, though, as Arangure tweets:

Without a ton of big-time bats on the market, Tomas could command a contract in excess of five years and $80 million. Whether he’s actually worth that is debatable.


A.J. Burnett

A.J. Burnett hasn’t retired despite early-offseason rumors, and his agent told Jayson Stark of ESPN.com that he “wants to pitch for a contender.”

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweeted that one potential contender, the Baltimore Orioles, had extended an offer his way:

Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun refuted that report, however:

It’s reasonable for Burnett to want to pitch for a contender, but not that many contenders might want him to pitch for their team. At least, his 2014 numbers indicate that he doesn’t have much left in the tank.

He led the National League in losses with 18 (eight wins) and also posted an ERA of 4.59 (4.14 FIP). That number was influenced by the fact that he led all starters in the league in earned runs and walks issued.

Granted, there were some positives teams could look at. He struck out 190 hitters in 213.2 innings. He also pitched much of the season with a hernia issue. That definitely affected the way he pitched.

Burnett is not the right fit for the Orioles. They’re still trying to cope with the massacre that was Ubaldo Jimenez’s contract, and he still has three years remaining on his contract. The O’s could trade him, but then why would they replace him with a similar hit-or-miss pitcher?

Burnett will find a home for 2015. That said, it might not be for an early-season favorite. It might not want to take the risk.


Alex Avila

The 2011 season was an outlier for Alex Avila.

He slashed .295/.389/.506 and produced a 5.1 WAR that year for the Detroit Tigers. He hasn’t hit over .243 since, and his total WAR in the past three seasons is just 5.4.

As a result, the Tigers could finally be fed up with the 27-year-old backstop. He’s still a buy-low candidate for other teams, however, and Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe tweeted that Detroit would be willing to move him:

Avila, a left-handed bat, would be semi-useful in a platoon on the right team. He’s a career .256 hitter against right-handers compared to .215 against southpaws.

At this point, the Tigers would probably take anything in return for Avila. His strong defense isn’t enough to make up for his poor offense, and the Tigers might just dump him after three straight disappointing seasons.

Detroit might only get cash relief and a mid-level prospect in exchange.

It’s interesting to hear from Cafardo that the Atlanta Braves are interested. Christian Bethancourt is supposedly the catcher of the future, and that has been reinforced with rumors that Evan Gattis is permanently moving to left field.

Unless the Braves plan on platooning Bethancourt and Avila, the veteran’s presence on the roster would simply take at-bats away from the youngster.


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Phillies’ A.J. Burnett Becomes 1st Pitcher with 12-Strikeout Game for 5 Teams

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett struck out 12 batters in Monday’s 3-2 win over the Washington Nationals, thus becoming the first player in major league history to record a 12-K game with five different teams, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Burnett has accomplished the feat with each team he’s played for: the Phillies (2014), Pittsburgh Pirates (2012-13), New York Yankees (2009-11), Toronto Blue Jays (2006-08) and Florida Marlins (1999-2005).

Monday’s was perhaps the most surprising of Burnett’s 12-strikeout performances, as the right-hander hasn’t been particularly effective this season. Not only does he own a 7-14 record and 4.30 ERA, but Burnett’s 7.9 K/9 would be his lowest since 2010 (7.0) if it were to hold up.

In four previous starts against the Nationals this season, Burnett compiled just 17 strikeouts, failing to top seven in any of the outings.

Additionally, the Nats are the hottest team in baseball, having won 12 of their last 14 games, even after Monday’s loss.

That said, the Nationals do have a pit of a weakness for the punch-out, with their 21.1 strikeout percentage ranking 24th in the majors. Of the six teams behind them, only the division-rival Atlanta Braves (22.5 percent) and Miami Marlins (23.3 percent) have a realistic shot at the playoffs.

As for Burnett, the 37-year-old hurler is widely expected to retire after the season, after he contemplated the move heading into this year. Among active players, Burnett’s 2,337 career strikeouts trail only the 2,437 compiled by injured New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia.

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MLB Trade Rumors: A.J. Burnett, Jon Lester, Matt Kemp and Latest Deadline Buzz

The 2014 MLB trade deadline is scheduled for Thursday, July 31, and as it is every season, the rumors have started to come fast and furious from all corners of the sport.

With huge names like A.J. Burnett, Jon Lester, Matt Kemp and Jonathan Papelbon potentially on the move, the landscape of baseball could shift if the rumored trades come to fruition before the deadline.

Here are the latest reports from around Major League Baseball.


Phillies and Pirates Hammering Out Deal for A.J. Burnett?

The Philadelphia Phillies currently hold a 46-60 regular-season record, meaning the team will mostly likely become aggressive sellers at the trade deadline. The franchise must start thinking about the future, and that could mean dealing starting pitcher A.J. Burnett.

Burnett was brought in as a free agent to add another reliable arm to the rotation, but his services would be much better utilized on a team contending for a postseason berth like the Pittsburgh Pirates.

According to Jim Bowden of ESPN, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are working on a deal, but the details are still being hammered out:

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com also reported the Pirates’ interest in Burnett but revealed a snag that could hold up a potential trade:

The Phillies and A.J. Burnett wouldn’t mind working out a deal for him to go to Pittsburgh, but the Pirates’ interest, believed mild at best, might fall further if Burnett intends to pick up a player option for next year that’s likely to be worth $12.75 million.

The 2015 option is for $7.5 million at its minimum, but it will begin escalating if he reaches 24 starts this season (he has 21 so far). If he starts 32 games, the option would rise to $12.75 million, which would be a budget buster for Pittsburgh.

Giving up seven earned runs in his last start is not what a prospective team wants to see from a trade target, but Pittsburgh knows exactly what Burnett would bring to the team based the two seasons he spent there (2012-13).

Burnett’s 2014 hasn’t been his best, but he has served admirably on a struggling team. His positive attitude has helped anchor the rotation, and he has amassed a 4.15 ERA, a 6-10 record and 123 strikeouts thus far.

With the Pirates depending on Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley as the No. 4 and No. 5 starters, respectively, in their rotation, adding an insurance policy like Burnett would be a great deal if the two sides can come to an amicable agreement.


Jon Lester-for-Matt Kemp Deal on the Table?

One of the biggest names on the trade block this season has been Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester. According to reports, Lester could be the key piece in a trade for Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.

In a report from Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com, Los Angeles and Boston may be laying the groundwork for a blockbuster trade before the deadline:

He has had debilitating ankle and shoulder injuries that have limited his play the last two seasons, is still owed roughly $118 million on a contract that runs through 2019, and has a mixed reputation as a clubhouse presence, but the Red Sox are considering making a move for Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, according to a club source.

With the Sox in need of more offensive production in the outfield, the right-handed-hitting Kemp could be the major piece in a trade for Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, especially with the Dodgers reluctant to part with top outfield prospect Joc Pederson.

This would be one of the biggest trades of the year, and it would make a lot of sense for both parties involved. Boston would get a legitimate return in Kemp for Lester before he hits the open market as a free agent.

Los Angeles will have to take the educated risk regarding Lester re-signing with the Dodgers, but the team would be able to add another ace to the already-powerful starting rotation. Add in the fact that moving Kemp would alleviate some salary-cap stress and free up another outfield position for the young players in the farm system, and this is a win-win deal for both teams.

With Lester pitching well (2.52 ERA, 10-7 record and 149 strikeouts) and Kemp performing strong since returning from injury (a .277 batting average, eight home runs, 40 RBI and a .343 on-base percentage on the season), this would be a blockbuster trade that could actually come to fruition before the deadline.


Philadelphia Pushing Hard to Move Jonathan Papelbon?

As discussed in the Burnett section, Philadelphia is slipping out of contention and should be looking to sell many of the high-priced pieces that aren’t going to be part of the long-term plan.

One of the biggest names thrown around in rumors has been closer Jonathan Papelbon, but there just hasn‘t been the attention the Phillies thought they would get for a player of his caliber.

According to Heyman, Philadelphia is so desperate to move Papelbon that the team is willing to eat a substantial portion of his salary, but there is still not enough interest to make a deal worth a move:

The Phillies are telling teams they’d absorb a portion of the $18 million remaining on closer Jonathan Papelbon’s deal if they are interested in trading for the closer. Papelbon’s market seems light, if existent, after both the Angels and Tigers filled back-end bullpen needs with Huston Street and Joakim Soria, respectively.

Despite the team’s struggles, Papelbon has not lost the tenacity and toughness be has become known for, and the numbers back that up. With a 1.83 ERA, 25 saves and 40 strikeouts in 44.1 innings, there is no question that he would be a welcome addition to any bullpen.

For the teams potentially interested in Papelbon, the high-priced contract is a major issue. If the Phillies are willing to eat a huge chunk of the money, as the report claims, it will be easier to move him in a last-second deal.


Stats via MLB.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting 4 Pre-Opening Day Moves That Will Shake Up the League

In most years, the free-agent market would be barren in early February. Roster upgrades would be difficult to find, leaving general managers scouring for low-risk, high-reward options to augment their respective rosters.

This year is different.

With pitchers and catchers reporting over the next week, an abundance of talent is still available on the free-agent market. Sure, the Masahiro Tanakas and Robinson Canos of the world are long gone. That doesn’t mean difference-making players aren’t available.

Between now and March 31—or March 22 and 23 in the case of the Dodgers and Diamondbacks—moves will be made before the season begins. 

The following five teams will all fill holes, add impact players and change their respective outlooks for the 2014 season.


Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted. All contract figures courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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Breaking Down Top A.J. Burnett Suitors, Potential 2014 Impact

At last, the question of whether A.J. Burnett will retire or return to pitch in 2014 has been answered. Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review is reporting that, according to a source, the 37-year-old Burnett will indeed return for his 16th big league season. 

Not only did the source confirm Burnett’s desire to pitch in 2014, he suspects that the right-hander, who posted a 3.30 ERA with 3.2 BB/9 and a league-leading 9.8 K/9 in 191 innings pitched last season, will test the open market and not limit himself to a return to Pittsburgh. 

While Burnett has stated his desire to remain with the Pirateshe was quoted last offseason as saying he wouldn’t want to pitch anywhere else but Pittsburgh if he resumed his playing career after 2013—he’s much more likely to land a bigger contract elsewhere or, if anything, drive up the Pirates’ price with multiple teams bidding on his services. 

Here are five teams that could have the most interest in adding Burnett to the front of their rotation in 2014.

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