Pat Burrell is playing the role of “The Forgotten” thus far this off-season. The Phillies have all ready replaced Burell, an awful defender, with another awful fielder in Raul Ibanez. That would seem to indicate Burrell is almost certainly destined for a designated hitter role, leaving him with only a few options beyond Cincinnati and other defensively unaware National League teams. How much should teams be willing to pony up for the slugger, and what is his outlook?
We know that Burrell is 32 years old and hit for his lowest wOBA since 2004. Part of that should be credited to an unlucky BABIP, and perhaps a slightly down walk rate. Burrell did increase his ISO and even if you park adjust his numbers, he was still above average. Perhaps not surprisingly, Burrell is a player who actually gains value by moving to hitting full time. The major defensive metrics all reach the same conlusion: Burrell in left field is a really bad experience. The most generous, Chone, had Burrell at -14 runs, meanwhile UZR at -14.7 runs, PMR at -19.89 runs, and Dewan’s +/- at -20 plays, or -16 runs.
That’s an average of -16.15 runs, combine that with the positional adjustment of -7.5 and you’re looking at his offensive value being zapped. As DH Burrell gets penalized -17.5 runs. 23.65-17.5 is a 6.15 run swing, in other words, Burrell gains a half of a win by simply tucking his glove in a dark corner. That’s a substantial amount when you consider the DH positional penalty is trying to punish, not improve player value.
Marcels has Burrell continuing his slide (mostly age related) and slipping to .369 wOBA, or 18.7 offensive runs above average in 582 plate appearances. That makes him worth between 1.8 and 2 WAR. If Burrell can find a way into 645 plate appearances like 2008, raise those expectations to 2-2.2. That suggests Burrell should be worth between 9 to 11 million.
The Phillies chose against offering Burrell arbitration, meaning no draft picks will exchange hands. Certainly a pro, but there are some cons to signing Burrell as well. Most of those are associated with his age and potential for a quick collapse in skills. Any team desiring to add Burrell should attempt a contract covering one or two seasons. This would allow Burrell to test the market again before his mid-30’s, and gives the team a chance to avoid Burrell’s eventually collapse.
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