Q&A - What do with Pat Burrell?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 ·

Should the Phillies keep Pat Burrell until the end of the season, sign him to an extension during the season, or should they trade him before the trading deadline? - Frank Troise, Jr.

Pat Burrell is in the final year of his contract and he is having himself quite the "contract year" -- though I still believe his success is solely based on his eye sight, the change of his stance, and him being more aggressive at the plate.

Coming into tonight's game Pat's Burrell's stats are as follows:
.289 BA, .433 OBP, .614 SLG, 1.047 OPS, 18 HR, 47 RBI, 40 R, 58/53 BB/K

His projections if is numbers were spanned out over a 162 game season:
Same averages, 41 HR, 107 RBI, 91 R, 133/121 BB/K

His career averages over 162 games:
.260 BA, .361 OBP, .489 SLG, .860 OPS, 31 HR, 105 RBI, 98 BB/158 BB/K

His numbers are pretty damn good and is worthy of a big contract in today's market, but he turns 32 in October and it seems as if he is getting slower by the game. He is somewhat of a defensive liability, but he still has a great arm, which can usually hold runners from getting that extra base. However, the prime for a major league player is about 28-32. It's hard to imagine him to continue to build off this year's success.

If you look at his career stats, there seems to be a distinct coincidence. During 2000 and 2001 he did not hit as well, but then in 2002 he exploded for the best season of his then young career -- the same season that rewarded him a big multi-year deal. So what happened next? Burrell had a poor 2003 and 2004, but rebounded with a great season in 2005 that resembled his 2002 season. It didn't happen again did it? You're damn right it is happening as we speak. After subpar 2006 and 2007 seasons, Pat Burrell is again hitting over .280 and is likely having the best season of his career, in the final year of his contract.

This year, Pat Burrell's pay checks will total a sum of $14.25 million. It's hard to believe that Burrell will accept much if anything less as a hometown discount, but he has noted that he enjoys playing here and he does not want to leave. I cannot see the Phillies looking to give him anything more than three years and I'd be surprised if they even offered him more than two years and because of that, I'm not sure if he will be around next year. His future likely consists of first base or an AL DH, but his outfield ability is still tolerable with the speed in the rest of the outfield.

So what should the Phillies do? First, they could attempt to try and move Burrell at the trade deadline, but Pat has a full no-trade-clause and last year, he emphasized that he'd only accept a trade to the Yankees or Red Sox. He clearly wants to win a World Series and those two teams generally have the best opportunities year in and year out. If David Ortiz is injured for longer than it seems, the Red Sox might try and make a move for Burrell. This time though, the Phillies cannot just give away a good player for nothing like they did with Abreu. There is almost no one left in the organization from that trade. If they decide to trade Burrell, the Phillies have the emphasize his ability to get on base, even if he isn't making contact. Even with his poor seasons, he has a career rate of reaching base at around 37%. In a Red Sox order where he could possibly bat sixth, that kind of ability is even more valuable.

Second, the Phillies could just let him play out the year and deal with him in the offseason. It is not worth trading Burrell if he is not going to warrant any players that could provide significant contribution in the near future. He's too valuable to the lineup, especially behind Ryan Howard. Pat Burrell is the Phillies only true right-handed power bat and because he bats behind Howard, it forces the opposing manager to work with his bullpen a little more.

Lastly, the Phillies could sign him to an extension sooner than later and hope the new contract leads him to continue his current success over the span of the rest of the contract. Is that likely, I don't think so. I think Burrell is currently having a career year and the season needs to at least reach the All-Star break and preferably later if the Phillies are going to consider signing him to a new deal.

It is well known that Burrell wants to remain in Philadelphia, so it is not as if he will be running to leave the organization or has his free agency papers just about completed. I think the best scenario for the Phillies would be to let Pat Burrell play out the season with the Phillies and waiting until the season ends to make a decision. The Phillies really have something good working right now and I think moving Burrell would damage the clubhouse more than help it. However, I cannot see Gillick passing up on a move that would improve the team overall significantly. There is no black and white answer to this topic.

We'll re-evaluate this question on July 31st.

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