Sunday, September 21, 2008

On AJ: What now?

I know it's way too early - I mean, the 2008 regular season isn't even over yet - but the state of the rotation is a hot topic, so we might as well address it. What the hell, right?

What to do with AJ Burnett.

Obviously, one of two things will happen - Burnett will exercise the opt-out, or he won't - but I don't think any reasonable follower of the game would even consider presuming that AJ would turn down an extra $30 million or so by exercising the clause. Oh sure, the possibility exists that JP renegotiates the contract and AJ stays, but in essence, that's the same as opting out. So what to do? What's the preferable option for the Jays?

If you would have asked me three months ago, I would have been waving goodbye to Burnett and researching draft prospects. With Roy Halladay, Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch, and a handful of promising arms on the farm, the rotation seemed to be in good hands without doling out another massive contract.

Unfortunately, a lot has happened in three months. Dusty McGowan underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum - which might be the only thing more frightening to a pitcher's future than Tommy John surgery.....which his rotation mate Shaun Marcum is about to undergo. Marcum will miss all of next season, and McGowan's return, while slated for the early part of the season, is still a question mark.

And the promising arms? Well, David Purcey has a spot now, by default if nothing else, and has been equal parts brilliant and brutal. Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero only have a handful of starts each above AA, and the John Parrish/Scott Richmond combo probably isn't going to be the answer (in the rotation, at least).

Can the Jays contend in '09 with a rotation potentially featuring Halladay, Litsch, and Purcey at the top? Can McGowan bounce back early in the season? Will one (or two) of the young arms step up and claim a spot? Yeah, maybe they can. Maybe the Jays catch a few bottles of lightning there.....but isn't that the strategy the Yankees employed heading into the season? Yes, yes it is....and you can bet your ass that won't be happening again.

So, what's the alternative? An expensive re-work of the deal? A bidding war with the Yankees, Red Sox, and other big spenders sure to line up for the AL strike-out leader? If Ricciardi can entice AJ to stick around and see this thing through by tacking on an extra year at market rate, or by renegotiating the remaining two years of the contract, then great. Get it done JP. Don't make me beg (I'm not above it).

Realistically? This thing goes to auction on a four year contract worth upwards of $65 million. That's probably going to be too rich for the Jays blood (or should I say, for ownership's tastes), and quite frankly, a four year contract for a 32 year-old pitcher (by spring training) with a history of arm troubles, who just happens to be coming off the highest innings-pitched total of his career, is probably a recipe for disaster.

Of course, there's always Plan C, which is take a run at another free agent arm like Derek Lowe. But then, it's the devil you know.....


Tao of Stieb said...

We keep hearing it, and every time we do, we ask the same question:

Is Derek Lowe really the answer?

And if you want to start going over his numbers, we'd just tell you to remember that he pitches in a pitcher's park in the NL. So adjust those to the AL East and ask yourself if he is worth giving up a draft pick to get.

Anonymous said...

Dodger Stadium is actually a moderate hitters park now.


best regards


Anonymous said...

If Burnett decides to opt out, I would like to see Riccardi offer him a one year $20ish million (or whatever the market is) contract.

Either way if AJ leaves the Jays are not going to contend in 2009 unless they bring in another serious arm and get some luck from the prospects (maybe Cecil?).

I also like the idea of a trade for Bedard.

Lloyd the Barber said...

Dodger Stadium is certainly not a hitters park.

I want nothing to do with Erik Bedard.

The Ack said...

Bedard might miss all of next year with a brutalized left arm, no?

dave said...

Someone teach Russ Adams how to throw a knuckleball.

Anonymous said...

Ack, Bedard's arm is fucked up so he's out next year. IF Aj bolts they should go after Lowe and or Garland and get some cheap reclamations like Prior, Pavano or POnson. Then work on the real problem offense....get Manny as Plan A, THome or Giambi as Plan B and Milton Bradley for the fuck of it!

Somebody mentioned draft picks? What is more important for JP? Saving his job now or giving up draft picks?

Tao of Stieb said...

Anonymous commenters are always the most brave when it comes to signing any old sack of meat and handing over draft picks.

And if J.P. is going to manage to save his job as you suggest, then he should be gone already. Because anyone who takes that approach is going to fuck the franchise up beyond recognition.

The Ack said...

Regardless, the decison on whether or not JP still has the job will have to be made before any FA decisions are, so the point is probably irrelevant.