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A.J. Burnett's Worth

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After a Red Sox loss last night where my consoling thought is "Maybe they won't resign Damon now", I am going to take a break from the playoffs to bring forth an issue. A.J. Burnett is going to be a free agent pitcher, and will not receive an offer from the Florida Marlins, who seem happy to be rid of him at this point. You think his value would be hurt somewhat by that, but teams are still looking to offer Burnett between $10-12 million a year for a multi-year contract. In one word, offering Burnett that much money is absurd. There is no reason to offer Burnett anywhere near that type of money. Pedro Martinez made $10 million this season to dominate hitters, and next year he will make $14 million, a little over what Burnett is expecting to receive on the market. I understand the market has weird occurences happening, but Burnett and Pedro making almost the same amount of money should not be one of them. To be honest, Burnett's price tag is really only as high as it is is because the Marlins have been high profile the past few seasons, and because he throws hard [read: potential for success]. Part of my problem with Burnett is that he does seem to throw instead of pitch. Teams want to pay Burnett this much money because of his potential. If you want to run your team payroll as efficiently as possibly, do not pay for things that are going to happen when it is going to cost you more. David Ortiz's contract anyone? His entire deal for 05-06 is for $12.5 million. His 2003 looked alot more promising than Burnett's 2004 as well. The best way to prove that Burnett is not something you have to pay $10-12 million for is to compare him to other pitchers with similar statistical profiles and overall value with much lower costs.

The best pitcher from 2005 on that whole list appears to be Aaron Harang, who signed a contract with the Reds for $440,000. The second best appears to be Doug Davis, who after a monster 2004 season signed a contract for $2.05 million in 2005 and $2.75 million in 2006. Bronson Arroyo had a promising 2004 season, and was rewarded with $1.85 million, possibly closer to $3 million next year. A.J. Burnett had the third best season of the pitcher's in the table, is only a year younger than Doug Davis, and will most likely land between $10-12 million per year. Let's take a look at Baseball Prospectus' Wins Above Replacement Player to get one neat and tidy number to look at for comparisons sake:

  • 2005 WARP1
  • Doug Davis: 5.4 WARP
  • Aaron Harang: 5.3 WARP
  • A.J. Burnett: 5.3 WARP
  • Bronson Arroyo: 4.9 WARP

Burnett is tied for second in WARP among these pitchers. Really the only thing that Burnett does that is significantly better than these pitchers is his ability to stop the long ball. Does he really have that much separation from them though?

Less strikeouts in over 30 innings more, 6 more homeruns allowed, and a hit rate 1.01 higher than at home. Burnett is helped by his home ballpark immensely. He is still a very good pitcher after, but I would consider him a complimentary guy rather than an ace. Kind of like Davis, Arroyo and Harang. Let's take a look at another pitcher's splits:

If you put Arroyo in Florida to pitch, and Burnett in Boston, I think we would see the reverse statistics for the most part, excepting the strikeout totals. I understand the market is completely ruined thanks to last year's Kris Benson, Eric Milton, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, Matt Clement, etc. contracts, but if all the teams would just admit to themselves that Burnett is not worth $10-12 million (not collusion, just an epiphany) it would be a real sign that the market is trending downward once again. There are Doug Davis's everywhere to be found if you look in the right places. Harang and Arroyo are two of them, and tbere is a good chance their entire deals will not add up to Burnett's single season payout...although their value might be higher by themselves. Production relative to cost is going to win this argument even if Burnett ascends to the realm of "slightly better" than these other guys. The general manager who signs Burnett is going to be viewed as lazy in my eyes, when Kevin Millwood (6.4 WARP/$7 mill), Esteban Loaiza (5.4 WARP/$2.9 mill), Matt Morris (2.8 WARP/$2.5 mill), Paul Byrd (5.5 WARP/$5 mill), Jarrod Washburn (5.8 WARP/$6.5 mill), Glendon Rusch (3.2 WARP/$2 mill) and Kenny Rogers (8.1 WARP/$3.5 mill) are all potential free agents this winter. Give me five of those guys who combine roughly for the price of Burnett, and we'll see who wins.

Thanks to Cot's Baseball Contracts for salary information.