Well, that screwed up what would have been my topic today on the state of the Mariners' bench, but I'll save that for another day for now.
The Mariners recently signed pitcher Scott Baker to a similar deal, a needed move in my opinion (you can read MLB.com Mariners beat writer Greg Johns' story here and Lookout Landing Managing Editor Scott Weber's take here). Baker, if he stays healthy, will be a steal for the Mariners and a potential No. 3 starter. He possesses potential to win about 12-15 games (he won 15 in 2009 with Minnesota).
But in a season with so much riding on the health of the players signed (Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, Baker), I feel it would be nice to have a little more assurance -- though the assurance of acquiring this player is almost null, but, hey, it's the Internet, so whatever.
I speak of pitcher A.J. Burnett (10-11, 3.30 ERA, 191.0 IP in 2013).
Burnett up until about a week ago mulled retirement. Did the 37-year-old right-hander feel he had another season in him? He decided he did, and now the market is clamoring for his help. Burnett was nothing short of an ace for Pittsburgh in 2012 and '13 and helped a franchise end a 20-plus year postseason drought. Would he like to do the same again in 2014?
Burnett has expressed wanting to pitch for a contender in 2014, possibly his last season in baseball. Per reports, the Phillies, Orioles and Rays have expressed interest in the 6-foot-4 righty (Baltimore has been reported as "all in").
Mariners General Manager Jack Zdurienick said at the Mariners' annual fanfest he continues to look for complimentary pieces to the blockbuster signing of Robinson Cano -- but he doesn't expect another blockbuster move. With manager Lloyd McClendon expressing his desire for a solid No. 3 starter, enter Burnett.
It's not that the Mariners need Burnett, but they should want him -- or a pitcher like him. Burnett wouldn't be a "blockbuster" move so to speak, but it could do wonders for Seattle. With all the talk about Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana and Burnett, I don't see many articles or editorials discussing Burnett's two World Series rings (2003 with Marlins, 2009 with Yankees). Santana has no ring, and Jimenez was a rookie in '07 when the Rockies reached the World Series. Rings don't make a top-tier player, but they make for an interesting resume. Burnett has the experience of pitching on a big stage and even in large markets.
Burnett can fill that No. 3 spot, and Baker can slip to No. 4. Taijuan Walker and James Paxton can compete for No. 5 with the "loser" honing his skill in Tacoma until needed (though McClendon said he expects Walker to break camp with the club). Burnett could provide tutelage and a stopgap until Paxton is 100 percent ready to mow down hitters (he's dang close, though).
Seattle will have to really work to bring in Burnett; I foresee a 1-year, $17 million contract and an assumed guarantee for the No. 3 spot to land him. Money and ego should trump geographic location. The Phillies are a toss-up for contention as they are banking on health and are in a tough division (like Seattle). Baltimore probably needs one more piece than Burnett to truly compete in an even tougher division (like Seattle).
Realistically, I don't see Burnett landing in the Northwest, but Seattle should look under every rock it can to improve, especially for "complimentary pieces." Seattle needs a veteran pitcher with experience and attitude to fill the No. 3 spot -- A.J. Burnett or someone like him.