NL East Watch: The Braves' Bold Move
Fresh off their trade for Javier Vazquez, the Atlanta Braves have moved quickly and aggressively to try to lock up another top starting pitcher, making a significant offer to free agent right-hander A.J. Burnett. The offer, which GM Frank Wren has confirmed, was for four years with a vesting option for a fifth year. Financial terms were not disclosed, but it was believed to be for roughly $15 million a year.
A straight four-year deal would not have been enough to get a deal done, while a five-year guaranteed deal would not be a wise move for the Braves, considering Burnett's age (32) and injury history. The vesting option, then, was a solid compromise. If Burnett makes a designated number of starts or pitches a designated number of innings -- the specific terms are unknown -- the fifth year would kick in automatically.
It is doubtful the Burnett camp will jump on the offer immediately -- and they would be fools to do so, given the apparent interest in Burnett by the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Phillies, Orioles and Blue Jays -- but things could move swiftly from here. The signal coming from agent Darek Brauneker is that a guaranteed fifth year would get a deal done, and given the number of teams involved I would be surprised if someone doesn't give it to him. It may even be the Braves.
With Tim Hudson (elbow surgery) expected to be out until Aug. 2009, here is how the Braves' rotation might look on Opening Day -- with each pitcher's ERA+ last year (adjusted for park and league effects, with 100 being league average) if they get Burnett:
RHP A.J.Burnett (105)
RHP Javier Vazquez (98)
RHP Jair Jurrjens (116)
RHP John Smoltz (165, in limited action)
RHP Jorge Campillo (109)
Solid. Very solid.
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