Phillies Sign Burnett, Mets Sign Valverde

The Philadelphia Phillies signed starter A.J. Burnett to a one-year, $16M contract (that includes an option for a second year). In response, the Mets signed Jose Valverde to a minor-league deal that includes an invitation to spring training. Which deal will turn out better?

Both of these signings smell like a desperation moves. For Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, it’s a desperate attempt to make it appear as though his team could compete for the postseason; the reality is that he’ll need nearly every single player on the roster to drink from the fountain of youth in order to finish with more than 75-80 wins.

Meanwhile, this is Valverde’s last-ditch effort to remain a big-leaguer. “Papa Grande” was always and forever one of the most inconsistent and frightening relievers to watch, yet he somehow found a way to save 40+ games three times in his career, with three different teams. His last productive year was recent enough — 2012 — but he finished that year so poorly, the Tigers didn’t trust him to pitch in the postseason and cut ties with him that offseason. He wound up finding his way back to a beleaguered Detroit bullpen in late April of last year, and though he converted 9 of 12 save attempts, when he failed, he failed so spectacularly that the Tigers let him go. Maybe his methods were too much for aging Jim Leyland‘s heart. Maybe he still has something in the tank. If Detroit was too pressure-filled for Valverde, I can’t imagine him gaining his confidence back in the fishbowl that is New York. But we’ll see. It’s more paint for the Mets to throw on the wall, and there’s no risk, so the signing makes sense.

As for Burnett, he’s reinvented himself as a sinkerballer who pitches to contact. But I wonder how much he’ll be affected by the cozy confines of Citizens Bank Park. He was smart not to return to the AL East, but he’ll have his challenges when pitching at home. I get why the Phillies signed him — they’re betting that starting pitching can carry them, and they figure they have more offense (when everyone is healthy) than the Mets and Marlins. But they’re still no closer to the Braves and Nationals, and, unless Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, and Domonic Brown all play 150+ games, they’re going to have to battle to stay out of the cellar.

What’s your thought? For the Mets, is it more cans of paint, the better? Do you think the Phillies have any shot at a Wild Card, now that they have A.J. Burnett? Post your notes in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. TexasGusCC February 14, 2014 at 8:27 am
    A major upgrade for thevPhils that were relying on three #5 starters in their rotation, Kendrick, Hernandez and Pettibone. As far as their aging stars, Amaro tied his future to their health when he re-signed Utley to a long term deal; he’s the anti-Alderson.
  2. TexasGusCC February 14, 2014 at 8:33 am
    Oh, sorry, for the Mets this was not a big deal, but also Valverde has diminishing velocity, so why bother with this type of guy?

    I wonder why Brett Myers hasn’t signed yet and what guys like Gregg and Bailey are asking for?

  3. crozier February 14, 2014 at 10:50 am
    Other than for the purposes of a blog narrative, I don’t see how the Mets signing Valverde is desperate (whereas I wouldn’t disagree with that being the case for Philadelphia and Burnett). Every so often a scrap heap reliever works out, and when it doesn’t it’s no big loss. True, the only thing remaining from Valverde’s asset column is K/9, but again, small gamble.

    As things stand today, I’m more confident in the bullpen’s ability to hold a lead than I am for the Mets’ offense to score four runs, let alone five.

    For signals of desperation, I’d continue to reference Alderson’s stance that he’s comfortable with Tejada being an everyday shortstop, and file his latest signing under footnotes.

    • Joe Janish February 14, 2014 at 11:12 am
      I didn’t mean desperation on the Mets’ part, I meant on Valverde’s part:

      “Meanwhile, this is Valverde’s last-ditch effort to remain a big-leaguer.”

      I agree with your sentiment re: bullpen vs. offense. Though both areas are looking woeful in comparison — on paper — to other clubs in the league.

  4. DaveSchneck February 14, 2014 at 11:42 am
    Tex,
    I have no problem with inviting 50 scrap heap guys to camp on a minor league deal. But, 50 of those guys don’t equal one legit signing, like a Balfour.

    Philly can have Burnett at $16 mil, even if he improves the starting staff. That is some price for a guy Pittsburgh didn’t trust with the ball in the playoffs. It’s interesting how at team in the city of brotherly love can afford double the payroll as a team in the big apple.

    • Joe February 14, 2014 at 4:03 pm
      “can afford double the payroll as a team in the big apple”

      Especially given the Philly team apparently will win around the same amount of games as the Mets. People are wary about spending money for Colon age-wise for a contract for two years merely 4M more.

      If the Colon pitches decent, I’m thinking trade bait at the deadline and net win vis-a-vis this desperation move. 16M!

      … stress-wise, the Mets are playing for pride this season, while Detroit continues to be leading playoff contenders. Might help Papa Not so Grande. GL.

      • Joe February 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm
        I’m sorry. They are playing for the gold!
  5. The King February 15, 2014 at 1:45 pm
    Valverde? The ghost of Armando reappears.
  6. argonbunnies February 15, 2014 at 5:54 pm
    Burnett led the NL in K rate last year. All this talk about contact and how he’ll miss the Pirates’ D is nonsense. If he pitches like he did last year, he will help the Phils immensely, and teams with real playoff chances will wish they’d stepped up.

    That said, Burnett’s best pitch is his curve, and his success last year was based on throwing it more than ever before. We’ll see how a 37-year-old arm reacts to that, and whether Ruiz will call for it the way Martin did.

    As for Valverde, his short-arm delivery can give hitters fits when he’s on, so I like the signing. The key would be to identify his good days and bad days, and not let him do any damage on his bad days. Can we afford to use a ‘pen spot on that? I guess we’ll see if we have 7 better options or not.

  7. david February 16, 2014 at 6:01 pm
    I don’t like the Valverde signing and think it is a waste of money. The Mets have lots of good young arms, so we keep getting told. I’d rather see one of them come out of the pen than some tired old vaudevillian hanging on by a thread. Valverde represents one more obstacle for a young player to clear given Collins and Alderson love to have retreads in the majors, and ‘studs’ in the minors. Heaven forbid you take your best 25 players north when spring breaks. Much better to start Colin Cowgill in CF on opening day, then cut him before the end of the year and hope no one remembers that decision. Short sightedness similar to investing with Madoff thinking it was ‘legit” (wink, wink, nod, nod).