Just minutes after news that Cole Hamels could miss the beginning of the season due to a biceps injury the Phillies have made a big move for the rotation: Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that they’ve signed A.J. Burnett to a one-year contract. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com says it’s worth $16 million.
Burnett had two fantastic seasons for the Pirates, including ranking among the NL’s best starters last year, but early in the offseason the assumption was that he’d either retire at age 37 or re-sign with Pittsburgh.
That changed a couple weeks ago, when it became clear that Burnett planned to continue pitching and was open to leaving the Pirates. Pittsburgh failed to make Burnett a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer, so there’s no draft pick compensation. And if Hamels gets healthy the Phillies’ front three of Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Burnett is one of the very best in baseball. Last season that trio combined to throw 634 innings with a 3.25 ERA while each topping 200 strikeouts.
Free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas is drawing interest from at least four clubs, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Friday. The Brewers are the presumed frontrunners to land the infielder, but Heyman adds that the Angels may take the inside edge as Moustakas hails from the San Fernando Valley and has invested in charity efforts in California over the last year. The Phillies and Padres, on the other hand, have been involved to a lesser degree as they’re both thought to be in hot pursuit of fellow free agent third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado, though their interest in the veteran Moustakas could ramp right back up should they lose out on Machado in the weeks to come.
Moustakas, 30, declined a $15 million mutual option with the Brewers at the end of the 2018 season, and like many others left on the market, has yet to find a landing spot in advance of spring training. While he’s several years removed from his last All-Star performance, he ran a decent campaign with the Royals and Brewers last year, slashing a combined .251/.315/.459 with 28 home runs, a .774 OPS, and 2.4 fWAR across 635 plate appearances.
He certainly appears to be a fit in Anaheim, where he could supplant Zack Cozart at the hot corner and balance out the Angels’ right-heavy lineup alongside Kole Calhoun, Justin Bour, and Tommy La Stella. Even if the Angels have serious interest in the third baseman, however, they’re likely to wait and see what kind of contract Machado (and the as-yet unsigned Bryce Harper) fetches before extending any serious offers of their own. They’re far from the only club to use the four-time All-Star as a litmus test this offseason, which has only fueled a growing unrest among MLB players who believe that more serious action — such as a midseason walk-out or a league-wide strike — will need to be taken over the next few months.