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Chris Burke

On Friday, the Arizona Diamondbacks decided not to tender an offer of arbitration to Chris Burke. After coming over from the Astros in the Jose Valverde trade, Burke was a massive disappointment, hitting .194/310/.273 in 165 at-bats, yielding an awful -11 wRAA while only playing about 1/4 of a season. In short, he was a total disaster, and the D’Backs decided that they didn’t want to give him a chance to get a raise in arbitration after such a poor season.

For some team looking for a middle infield/utility player option on the cheap, however, Burke should be near the top of the list. Even with his poor 2007 and miserable 2008, his career is .241/.318/.363, which translates to a .304 wOBA. That’s not good, certainly, as Burke has racked up -29.5 wRAA over his career, but that averages out to about -13 runs per 600 plate appearances. That’s not good – Burke almost certainly won’t be an asset offensively going forward.

However, Burke is a good defensive player. In his career, he’s logged 854 innings at second base and has posted a UZR/150 of +10. He’s also logged 1,111 innings in corner outfield spots and posted a UZR/150 of +14. While he’s been used as a utility player, he’s put up very good numbers in his two primary positions of 2B/LF. Combined with positive scouting reports, we can be pretty certain that Burke’s a defensive asset.

As a guy who can be an asset as a defender at multiple positions, he doesn’t have to hit much in order to be a useful utility player, and if his offense rebounds to anything close to his 2006 performance, he’d be a league average starter.

At 29, Burke is simply too young to give up on and assume that his struggles the last two years represent a true collapse of his skills. Jerry Hairston Jr provided a great template for a resurgent player of this skillset, bouncing back from a horrible 2007 to be quite valuable for the Reds in 2008. A smart team with a need for a solid backup middle infielder with upside will bring Burke into camp and find a way to get his glove in the line-up on a semi-regular basis.