CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies have reached an agreement with veteran righthander A.J. Burnett, according to a source.
Burnett, 37, will earn $16 million in 2014, according to Fox Sports, a number that puts the Phillies against the luxury tax payroll limit of $189 million. His salary will the the fourth highest on the Phillies this season.
The righty will provide stability to a rotation that sorely lacks it, especially given the news Wednesday that Cole Hamels will miss the start of the season because of biceps tendinitis. Burnett had a 3.30 ERA last season with Pittsburgh and led the National League with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
He has made at least 30 starts in his last six seasons, although he did not thrive until leaving the American League East.
Pittsburgh did not make Burnett a $14.1 million qualifying offer, and it cost the Pirates a draft pick as compensation. Burnett earned $16.5 million in 2013. He sought employment close to his Monkton, Md., home. At first, Burnett said he would pitch for the Pirates in 2014 or retire.
The Phillies were interested in Burnett from the start of the offseason. Burnett, an Arkansas native, is friends with Cliff Lee, and the two pitchers share the same agent, Derek Braunecker.
"He's got unbelievable talent," Hamels said before news of the signing broke. "Unfortunately, I think he kept us away from another ring. What he brings to the table is great. If we're able to get him, it only helps us out. It doesn't hurt us. He's another veteran who has good experience and a good repertoire. I know he is pretty charismatic. He would be good for us."
The signing means the rotation, when healthy, will include Hamels, Lee, Burnett, Kyle Kendrick and one of Roberto Hernandez, Miguel Gonzalez or Jonathan Pettibone. Hernandez signed in December for $4.5 million. Gonzalez, a veritable unknown from Cuba, signed a three-year, $12 million contract last August after the Phillies initially agreed to a $48 million deal.
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