Rays improve with Burrell

January, 5, 2009
Fresh off winning the World Series, Pat Burrell is apparently heading to a new team, a new league … and a substantially lower salary

    Burrell has agreed in principle to a two-year, $16 million contract with the Rays, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney on Monday. The deal is pending a physical.

    In Tampa Bay, the longtime left fielder would be the designated hitter. Burrell batted .250 with 33 homers with the Phillies last season.

    Burrell's signing with the Rays increases the likelihood that the Oakland Athletics will be the front-runners to sign Jason Giambi.

What a fantastic move. As you've no doubt read, this winter there's a buyer's market for sluggardly sluggers like Burrell and Giambi. Burrell earned roughly $28 million with the Phillies over the past two seasons. That was too much. Because of his obvious limitations -- he's not only a left fielder, but a poor one -- he was really worth something like $20 million over those two seasons. He's in his early 30s now, and moving to the better league's best division, so we may assume he'll be worth less than $20 million over the next two seasons.

How much less? We can't exactly know, but $16 million for two years seems just about right. Especially considering that he's actually more valuable as a DH than as a left fielder. And while it would have been easy for the Rays to rest on their considerable laurels and assume that a full season of David Price will give them all the boost they need, it's a lot smarter to make a real effort to get better, because some of the things that went right in 2008 will go wrong in 2009. Bravos and Huzzahs are definitely in order.

I'm sure it's tough for Burrell to take a huge pay cut despite coming off a pretty good season. Same goes for Giambi (who made $21 million last year) and the rest of them (Raul Ibanez notwithstanding).

But the sport isn't (and shouldn't) be run for the benefit of the players. Rather, baseball should be run for the benefit of itself, and the sport benefits on some fundamental level when players are properly and appropriately valued. And I believe we're seeing more proper valuations this winter than we've seen at any point in the past 30 years.


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