Free Agent Values: A.J. Burnett

Perhaps one of the more enigmatic pitchers on the free agent market this winter is A.J. Burnett. When he signed his $55 million contract with the Blue Jays three years ago, people derided it as a disaster for a headcase with injury problems. However, after a couple of solid seasons where he mostly avoided the disabled list and pitched pretty well, the contract became too much of a bargain and Burnett opted out in order to get a bigger paycheck this winter.

How much should teams spend for Burnett’s future, though? Let’s go through the calculations one more time.

Thanks to the new Marcel projections that were just added to the site last night, we can estimate Burnett’s 2009 performance pretty easily. Marcel projects him at 187 innings with a 3.87 FIP for next year, but we’ll round that to 190 innings and a 3.90 FIP just to make the math easier. Once again, we’re going to use a 5.50 FIP as replacement level for a starter and cap his innings at 160, and use a 4.50 FIP as replacement level for a reliever, who will make up the 30 inning difference. So here are the totals that we’re projecting:

Burnett: 190 innings, 82 runs allowed
Replacement Level Starter: 160 innings, 98 runs allowed
Replacement Level Reliever: 30 innings, 15 runs allowed

We’re projecting the replacement level pitchers to allow 113 runs, or 31 more than what we’re projecting for Burnett. That would translate to +3 wins for whoever signs him. We can once again add a bit of a bonus to account for his extra innings saving the bullpen, so let’s call Burnett a +3.3 win pitcher.

3.3 wins * 5.5 million per win = $18.15 million in projected 2009 value. We again factor in a 10% discount rate to make up for the fact that he’s going to get a long term deal, and that gives us an annual average value of $16.4 million. Given Burnett’s history, it’s unlikely he’ll get more than four or five years. That puts his projected contract at 4 years/$66 million or 5 years/$82 million.

Those numbers match up fairly well with what the rumors have pegged his price tag at. It seems unlikely that Burnett will be either a huge bargain or a big albatross this winter.

Print This Post

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.