Updated: July 14, 2008, 11:28 AM ET

  • Comment
  • Email
  • Share

AP Photo/Aaron Harris

A.J. Burnett was impressive in what could prove to be his final appearance with the Blue Jays.

Burnett the next big rental?
With two of the trade market's top aces off the market -- CC Sabathia and Rich Harden -- big league teams head into the All-Star break searching for the next-best arm to pluck to help with their playoff runs. Who's No. 3? Is it Erik Bedard? And if (or should it be when?) Bedard is eventually dealt, who then becomes target No. 4?

Here's a novel idea: How about A.J. Burnett being next off the block?

The scouts had to like what they saw on Sunday. Eight shutout innings with four hits allowed and eight strikeouts to start the game, and 8 1/3 innings of one-run, six-hit baseball against the potent Yankees lineup overall, as the season's traditional "first half" concluded. Burnett is 10-8 with a 4.96 ERA in 21 games (20 starts), but to be fair, the Blue Jays sport a bottom-10 offense, and if you flash back to the end of April, the right-hander's ERA at the time was an unsightly 6.07.

In other words, Burnett is slowly but steadily improving -- he has eight quality starts in his past 15 tries -- and on a better team, he might be a more consistent winner. He's a 27-17 pitcher with a 3.47 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 52 games (51 starts) after the All-Star break the past four seasons, so clearly, he tends to save his best for later in the year.

But here's the problem: Burnett has served up eight runs in three of his past eight starts, and seven in a fourth. He also has posted his three best starts all year -- going by game score, that is -- during those eight turns. It's a collection of boom-or-bust outings, which could just as easily be a sign that Burnett isn't right than a sign that he merely needs better focus -- something that could come with a shift to a playoff-hopeful team.

The Phillies have often been linked to Burnett rumors, and the Cardinals, Tigers and Yankees could also use pitching help. A shift to the National League would probably suit Burnett's fantasy owners best; he has a 3.42 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in nine interleague starts since joining the Blue Jays in 2006. That includes a win in Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park on May 17, although it bears noting that for his career, Burnett is 2-3 with a 5.04 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in six career games (five starts) at that ballpark.

Don't be shocked to see Burnett, who can opt out of his current multiyear contract this winter, the next name swapped before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. And with a change of scenery, he'll have a great chance at a strong two-month finish.

Past editions: 7/13: K-Rod | 7/12: Tale of two Roys | 7/11: Banged-up Blue Jays

Box Score Bits
Who notched the first Indians save since the release of Joe Borowski? Masa Kobayashi, who picked up his fifth save of the season. He has a 2.35 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in his past eight appearances, and is probably the short-term favorite. … Here's how full-season numbers can often mislead: Justin Verlander is 7-9 with a 4.15 ERA in 20 starts. That belies how well he has pitched of late, though. In his past seven starts, Verlander is 5-0 with a 2.54 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 44 strikeouts in 46 innings. He's back to his old top-10 status. … Was that Adam Lind starting in left field against a left-hander (Andy Pettitte) on Sunday? Sure was, and even better, he singled and walked against Mr. Pettitte! Lind is looking like an everyday player in the wake of Vernon Wells' injury, and is a big-time second-half sleeper, for what feels like the third consecutive season. OK, for what is the third in a row. … Welcome back, old reliable Daniel Cabrera (though I say that not intending it as a good thing). He walked six Red Sox in 4 1/3 innings, and in his past 10 starts he has averaged 4.82 walks per nine innings, a rate higher than he had in his disastrous 2007. Kiss that hot start goodbye. … Games like Sunday's Diamondbacks-Phillies contest are why I continue to stress that I don't play for wins. Total starters Brandon Webb's and Cole Hamels' numbers and you get 14 innings, 18 hits, four earned runs, one walk and 14 strikeouts; that's a 2.57 ERA and 1.36 WHIP if you owned both. But neither won, as they both departed with the game knotted at 2. … More lefty-versus-lefty fun: Chad Tracy went 2-for-4 with a home run, both of the hits coming against Hamels. Tracy is 12-for-28 (.429 BA) in his past six contests, and is sure to continue getting regular play at first base, with Conor Jackson in left field, for as long as this keeps up. He's another second-half sleeper. … If you're in a league that counts complete games -- points-based formats most likely -- you have to be happy that of all places besides Cleveland that CC Sabathia could land, he wound up in Milwaukee. Ned Yost is one of the most conservative bullpen users in baseball, as evidenced by Sabathia's complete-game, 122-pitch outing in his second start for the Brewers. It's CC's 14th complete game since the beginning of 2004; only Roy Halladay (18) has more. Someday, Sabathia might pay the price for all these 110-plus pitch outings and high innings totals the past couple years, but for now, enjoy his workhorse-type numbers, as he's already 2-0 in his Brewers career. … Mike Aviles is hitting .268 (19-for-71) in 17 games since starting his big league career on a massive tear, but to be fair, his three-hit effort on Sunday marks his third with at least 3 hits in his past seven contests. Players like this, who probably won't kill your batting average yet can provide the occasional homer or RBI, can be valuable roster-filler parts in deep AL-only leagues. Another strong example: Aaron Miles (NL-only formats), who went 3-for-5 with a home run and five RBIs to raise his batting average to .317. … Another of the many examples why you don't need to be an elite pitcher to amass a ton of saves: Brian Wilson notched his 25th save of the season, despite allowing a run, two hits and a walk to bring his ERA to 4.58, his WHIP to 1.53. I'd expect some statistical correction to his saves number in the season's second half, but the nice thing about Wilson is that the Giants can afford to stick with him since they're not that serious a playoff combatant, meaning his job security is probably better than most pitchers with ratios that high. … Jermaine Dye was 4-for-5 with a home run, helping him finish the first half batting .306 with 21 homers and a .923 OPS. If that so-so 2007 of his has you concerned that his 2008 is a fluke, consider that Dye finished with at least a .298 batting average, 16 homers and a .947 OPS in each half of 2006, the second half of 2007 and the first half of 2008. That's four phenomenal half-seasons out of his past five, suggesting this is the real Dye, not the one who was .214-12-.673 the first half of 2007. … Francisco Rodriguez notched his 38th save of the season, and has three in a row since that ugly blown-save outing in Texas on July 9. He's on pace for 65 saves, eight ahead of Bobby Thigpen's single-season record, and needs to average one save per 3.35 Angels games remaining to set the new mark. Health willing, K-Rod is a fairly strong bet to either break it, or get awfully close. … With a 1.82 ERA heading into the break, Justin Duchscherer owns the second-best mark in the category since 2001 (Roger Clemens had a 1.48 mark in 2005). That's how dominant the reliever-turned-starter has been. … Chad Billingsley continued his career track record of absolutely owning the Marlins, striking out 13 in seven innings to run his lifetime numbers to 4-0 with a 1.64 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in six games (five starts) against them. He's quickly developing into one of the game's best strikeout artists, with a 9.90 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio for the season. Billingsley should only get better from here. … Mike Pelfrey won his sixth consecutive start, tossing eight shutout innings of six-hit baseball. Most importantly, with his no-walk performance, he has allowed just two walks in 22 innings in his past three turns. Pelfrey's strikeout rate leaves a lot to be desired, but he has a 2.35 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 10 home starts, establishing himself as a solid matchups play at the very least.



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

Standing Out

Brian McCann, Braves
McCann has enjoyed a big start to July, including a 3-for-3 effort with a homer and 3 RBIs on Sunday. He's batting .450 this month, and for the season stands at .302 with 18 homers and 53 RBIs.

C.J. Wilson, Rangers
Would you believe Wilson hasn't blown a save since May 19? It's true, but it doesn't mean he's been tough to reach base against. He allowed three runs on five hits in an inning to make things interesting on Sunday, and has a 5.01 ERA and 1.57 WHIP for the season.
News and Notes

The Twins will pitch Kevin Slowey fifth in their rotation coming out of the All-Star break in order to give an infected nail on his right middle finger more time to heal, according to the team's official Web site. He'll start on July 22 at the Yankees, following Glen Perkins, Livan Hernandez, Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn. Slowey, who had been scheduled to start the team's first game of the second half on Friday, should be healed in time to take that July 22 turn, but his status should be closely monitored until then. With Francisco Liriano pitching extremely well in Triple-A, the Twins might not take any chances if Slowey is less than 100 percent healthy. … The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Jaime Garcia will join the Cardinals' rotation next Sunday. He'll pitch the team's fourth game of the second half at San Diego, following Kyle Lohse, Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer. It's a favorable matchup for the 2005 second-rounder, who warrants at least NL-only consideration upon the news he'll be added to the starting five. In deep formats, he might even be worth using in that turn, but in any case, look at him as a possible matchups play for the second half. … Speaking of the Phillies looking to trade for midseason reinforcements, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports the team has talked to the Rockies about Brian Fuentes, who would help provide left-handed bullpen depth along with J.C. Romero. The report indicates that the Rockies have asked for either right-hander Carlos Carrasco or catcher Lou Marson, both of whom are currently playing at Double-A Reading, plus two of the team's top prospects. It's a steep price for the Phillies to pay, but if Fuentes does find himself in Philadelphia even for a lesser package of prospects, his fantasy value would take a significant hit, as he'd drop into a setup role behind Brad Lidge. … Chris Young was slated to throw a bullpen session Sunday before heading off to a rehabilitation assignment with Class A Lake Elsinore on Wednesday, according to the North County Times. He'll make three rehab starts there, putting his timetable for a return to the Padres right around Aug. 1. … The Dodgers are preparing for the worst after Takashi Saito, who left Saturday's game with elbow discomfort, was unable to brush his teeth the following morning without further pain, according to the team's official Web site. He'll undergo an MRI exam on Monday to determine the extent of the damage, but a disabled-list stint is looking highly likely. The Web site's report, in fact, says that "if he's lucky, he won't need surgery." With Saito almost assuredly on the shelf for an extended period, Jonathan Broxton will take over the team's closer duties.

• The Reds finally placed Aaron Harang on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday, clearing a roster spot for Homer Bailey, who took his spot in the rotation in the first-half finale. Bailey allowed two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings in a respectable outing against the Brewers; the biggest blemish was his allowing a home run to CC Sabathia. Bailey has been nothing but erratic at the big league level thus far, so he'll need more than one decent performance before turning into a trusted fantasy asset.

Reid Brignac was returned to Triple-A Durham after going 0-for-10 with five strikeouts in four games. His stock as a prospect has slipped considerably the past two years, but with a strong showing over the next two months at Durham, he should get another look in September and perhaps be in the mix for the starting shortstop role in 2009.

• With Joe Saunders scratched Sunday due to his wife being in labor, the Angels promoted Dustin Moseley to make the spot start, during which he allowed two runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings. Moseley might now get to stick around as a reliever and spot starter, but he's not all that appealing to fantasy owners.
On The Farm

• Che-Hsuan Lin, a speedy, defensive-minded center-field prospect for the Red Sox, was named the All-Star Futures Game MVP on Sunday, after belting a two-run home run in the seventh inning. The 19-year-old was hitting .251 with a .719 OPS in 80 games for Class A Greenville, though his 26 stolen bases and 52 runs scored demonstrate the sources of his value. Lin might be a decent speedster in deeper fantasy leagues with time, but he's at least another two years away from being big league ready.

• Apparently his rocky three-start stint in Cincinnati didn't mess with Daryl Thompson's confidence. He won his second consecutive start for Triple-A Louisville, both of them coming on the road, and has allowed three runs on 11 hits and five walks in 12 innings total during that span. For the season, Thompson is 5-0 with a 2.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and .233 batting average allowed in four starts for Louisville. He's probably next in line for another promotion now that Homer Bailey is with the big club.

• Charlie Zink, a 28-year-old knuckleballer and member of the Triple-A International League All-Star team, won his 11th game of the season with a seven-inning, one-run outing. He has a 2.28 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and .200 BAA in 19 starts for Pawtucket, numbers that might seem to put him in line for a promotion to the Red Sox. Unfortunately, Zink isn't regarded as much of a prospect, and the Sox might be wary of having two knuckleballers on their roster. At his current pace, the right-hander might warrant a September promotion anyway as a reward for his performance, but don't expect much for fantasy purposes.

Nick Adenhart's slide continued for Triple-A Salt Lake on Sunday, as he allowed six runs on eight hits in seven innings, his 10th "non-quality" start in 12 tries since being demoted by the Angels. He has an 8.27 ERA and 1.94 WHIP during that span, which could indicate he's closer to a demotion to Double-A than another appearance in L.A.