It certainly looked like one of the better signing of the offseason: after missing out on Milton Bradley, the Rays inked Pat Burrell to a two-year, $16 million contract to take over as their DH. He was coming off four straight seasons with OPSs around 890 and he had averaged 153 games during those seasons. Sure, there’d be a period of adjustment for him coming over to the AL, but he projected as a well above average DH and he’d come at a fair price.
Of course, things haven’t worked out that way. Burrell hit .250/.349/.315 with one homer in 30 games before going down with a neck injury that cost him a month. He entered the All-Star break at .232/.341/.347. He did do solid work for a month and a half after that, coming in at .257/.335/.493 with nine homers and 27 RBI in a 40-game span through Sept. 2. However, he’s hit .147/.238/.206 in 22 appearances since.
The truly remarkable thing is that Burrell has gone the whole year without a homer against a left-hander. He’s hitting .207/.338/.259 in 116 at-bats against them. All 14 of his bombs have come against righties. Between 2005-08, Burrell had 38 homers in 587 at-bats versus southpaws.
Burrell’s career is at a crossroads now. He’s obviously far more comfortable against National League pitching, yet his poor defense limits his value in the Senior Circuit. The Rays figure to try to exchange him for another lousy contract over the winter. Burrell for Bradley is one idea that will get tossed around. The Cubs wouldn’t want Burrell, but since he’s only signed for one more year, they’d save $12 million as part of such a swap. The Rays, though, would have big problems taking on that kind of salary for 2011 when so many of their young players will be big significant raises then.
Perhaps Burrell could be swapped for a reliever who has fallen out of favor. Kyle Farnsworth in Kansas City and Scott Linebrink in Chicago would be a couple of possibilities. The Rays would likely be better off keeping the 33-year-old and hoping for the best rather than taking on someone who would require a longer commitment. They can always release him and dig up a DH elsewhere if he struggles out of the gate again in 2010.
The Cubs soundly defeated the Cardinals on Monday night, 10-2, sending their magic number down to one. They will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday with another win against the Cardinals. Alternatively, if they lose, they can still clinch if the Brewers also lose on Tuesday.
The Cubs, of course, won the Central last year en route to winning their first World Series since 1908. It wasn’t nearly as easy this year as the club was below .500 entering June and was exactly at .500 entering July. A 16-8 July, 17-12 August, and 15-8 September have helped put the Cubs back in position to return to the postseason.
Not to be forgotten, the Cardinals were eliminated from NL Central contention with Monday’s loss. Now they have their sights set on the second NL Wild Card slot and currently trail the Rockies in that race.
The matchups for Tuesday’s action:
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that Padres pitcher Carter Capps will undergo surgery this offseason to address thoracic outlet syndrome, which doctors believe caused the right-hander’s blood clots. The Padres hope to have him ready by spring training next year.
Capps, 27, underwent Tommy John surgery last year and didn’t debut this season until August 7. He made 11 relief appearances, yielding nine runs on 12 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He went back on the DL on September 12 due to the blood clot issue.
The Padres acquired Capps from the Marlins last July in the Andrew Cashner trade which ended up having a lot of moving parts. Capps will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason. It’s quite possible the Padres choose to non-tender him.