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.
Mariners’ right-hander Arquimedes Caminero is nearing a deal with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. The club has reportedly agreed to sell the 29-year-old’s contract, Dutton writes, though no official move has been announced by either team yet. Caminero is under club control through 2020 and currently ineligible for arbitration.
The right-hander began the 2016 season with the Pirates but was sent to the Mariners in a trade for Seattle minor leaguers Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez in order to clear space in the Bucs’ bullpen. With the Mariners, Caminero produced a 3.66 ERA and 8.2 K/9 through 19 2/3 innings in the second half of the year. Although he boasts an electric fastball, one which consistently averaged 98.7 m.p.h. in 2016, his success rate has been tempered by poor control throughout his major league career. According to Dutton, the Mariners’ willingness to sell Caminero’s contract was a strong indication that they did not see him as a viable contender for their 2017 bullpen or as a potential trade chip further down the line.
Should the deal go through, the right-hander will be the second former Mariner to sign with a Japanese club for the 2017 season. Per Dutton’s report, outfielder Stefen Romero also picked up a contract with the Orix Buffaloes of NPB in late November.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.