When talking about the biggest free agent signing busts from this past offseason, we often reference Milton Bradley of the Chicago Cubs or Oliver Perez of the New York Mets. Well, I think it is time we start referencing another player as a free agent bust. That player is the Tampa Bay Rays’ Pat Burrell.
When the Rays signed Burrell to a two-year $16 million contract in the offseason, I thought it was a great move. Here was a guy who averaged 27 HR’s, 91 RBI, and a .367 OBP from 2000-2008, he was a clear upgrade at DH over the Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske combination of last year, and I thought he along with Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, would give the Rays one of the best three-four-five hitters in the game.
Because of injuries and just plain being terrible, Burrell has been a major disappointment for the Rays this year. He is hitting a Kevin Stocker-esque .219 with just seven HR’s and 37 RBI in 70 games for the Rays. Not exactly what the Rays were looking for.
I can understand the average dipping a little bit at the age of 32. Burrell was never a great contact hitter as his .257 average from 2000-2008 suggests. But where is the power? He is averaging a HR every 33.9 AB’s this year. Much worse than his 18.6 HR/AB average for the previous nine years.
The Rays are seven games out of first place in the AL East and are four and a half games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card race. If the Rays plan on making one last run at a playoff berth in 2009, not only do they need their starting pitching to step up, but they also need Pat Burrell to start hitting like he is used to.