A.J. Burnett was coming off of an 18 win season, where he led the league in strikeouts in 2008, when he signed his massive multi-year contract with the New York Yankees. He was expected to be a top performer in the Yankee rotation throughout the contract.
But while in New York, his career took a downward turn. In his three years in New York, his ERA rose to 4.79. During the 2010 and 2011 seasons he had ERAs over five. The only two stats he was able to lead the league in were wild pitches and hit batsmen. Everything seemed to be coming to an end during 2010 when he injured his hand showing frustration on a door after a poor start. He seemed to crumble under the pressure of Yankee Stadium.
But, after being moved to Pittsburgh during the 2011 offseason Burnett’s career was saved. While pitching for the Pirates, Burnett went from an expensive gamble to a staff ace who started on opening day for the club in 2013. During his two Pittsburgh seasons, Burnett compiled a 3.41 ERA and won 26 games. He located well dropping his walk per nine inning ratio and raising his strike out per nine inning ratio. He finished first in the NL with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 2013 and fifth in the NL with 209 strikeouts.
Heading into the offseason it appeared that Burnett was either going to retire or resign with the Pirates. As time progressed it appeared that he and the Pirates were ready to move on. Finally, he signed two year $30 million contract with the Phillies that guarantees him at least $22.5 million.
His entrance into the Phillies rotation makes the team’s chances to compete instantly better. Burnett brings a veteran presence, with his strikeout ability in the middle of the Phillies staff. With Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee ahead of him, Burnett will not need to be an ace. When pitching with Pittsburgh, Burnett gave his team a chance to win every time out. Though he 37 years old, the two year contract shows the Phillies believe that he is not the pitcher who pitched for the Yankees, but that he will keep them in games every five days.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference