Monday, January 5, 2009

Rays Strike Gold with Burrell Signing

The Tampa Bay Rays’ signing of Pat Burrell late yesterday is yet another example of the sound baseball decisions now being made in the annals of Tropicana Field. The inking of Burrell to a 2-year/$16 million deal was a master stroke by GM Andrew Friedman and his staff for the following reasons:
  • The Rays played the waiting game perfectly. As early as November Friedman & Co saw the downward pricing pressure the recession and glut of available corner outfielders would exert on the free agent market and decided let the market flush itself out. The end result was a downright bargain for a bona fide middle-of-the-order bat whose four-year OPS is a robust .890. By comparison, Raul Ibanez, the player who’s replacing Burrell in Philadelphia, received one extra year at an aggregate incremental cost of $14.5 million. Yet, Ibanez is four-and-a-half years older than Burrell and has a four-year OPS of just .830.
  • Speaking of deal length, the fact that Burrell’s contract has a tenor of two years is another coup for Tampa Bay. Because Burrell’s a player with classic “old man” skills (i.e. he hits for power and shows patience at the plate but is unathletic with slow-twitch actions), he probably will not age as gracefully as the typical 32-year-old major leaguer. Thus, by signing Burrell to a short-term deal, the Rays have in effect taken out an insurance policy against a washed up Burrell tying up a significant portion of their payroll for years to come.
  • Burrell is a well below replacement level fielder, who, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN, was removed for a late inning defensive replacement in 100 of the Phillies 154 games and was assigned a minus-20 defensive rating by the Fielding Bible. This, however, will be of no concern to the Rays, who plan on using Burrell exclusively at DH. In addition, the Rays hope that keeping Burrell off the field in 2009 will prevent a repeat last season when he faded down the stretch. Burrell’s second half line of .215/.313/.413 paled in comparison to his first half, when he hit .275/.404/.575.
  • By adding Burrell, the Rays have obtained a right-handed foil to slugger Carlos Pena. With Burrell protecting him in the lineup (as opposed to Cliff Floyd or Johnny Gomes), Pena should see a steadier diet of fastballs and likely enjoy a season which closely resembles his monstrous .282/.411/.627 effort in 2007.

Aside from possibly finding one more reliever to round out their bullpen, the Rays’ offseason shopping spree is complete. And to think, it cost them less than $20 million dollars – a mere $425 million less than the Yankees. Yet – call us crazy – the two teams will likely be separated by mere inches in 2009.

1 comment:

Slice said...

Of the six quality corner outfielders, three have signed and I agree that the Rays got a great deal. Ibanez looks like a mistake and the Cubs went high risk/high reward/reasonable price with Bradley. That leaves Dunn, Manny and Abreu left – the most accomplished three. In the “it wont happen, but” category; I love the idea of Manny signing a two year $40 MM contract with Minnesota. A top tier, right hander to split Mauer and Morneau would provide Minnesota with a huge boost on offense with Ozzie would no longer be concerned with the gnats. With their pitching, the Twins would be favorites in the AL Central. Yes that would eat into the ABs for Span, Cuddyer, Kubel, Young and Gomez – but Gomez needs more time at AAA to work on plate discipline and none of these guys have really performed well enough to have some “guaranteed” playing time.

Oh and decisions are made in the bowels of the Trop and recorded in the annals.