Is Burnett The Real Target?

The Phillies have dispatched a couple of top scouts and even a top scouting executive to follow the Toronto Blue Jays. The word is that they're pursuing A.J. Burnett, but are they? We've got the scoop.

When the Phillies added pitcher Joe Blanton to their ranks last week, the consensus was that they were turning their search to left-handed relievers. But when they were seen scouting the Toronto Blue Jays and on the same night that A.J. Burnett was pitching, word again spread that they were pursuing yet another starter for a rotation that could get pretty crowded.

Actually, the Phillies could make a case for adding another starter. Brett Myers was certainly not convincing in his return to the majors last night in New York and he could certainly follow Adam Eaton to the bullpen to make room for another starter. And if they're going to add another starter, A.J. Burnett (11-9, 4.73) would be a good choice. It should be mentioned too, that the Blue Jays have quietly put pitcher Roy Halladay (11-7, 2.89, 7 CG) on the market. If Burnett would be a good pick-up, Halladay would be an absolutely amazing addition, especially considering that he's signed through 2010 at a very reasonable rate.

The real targets are the guys who pitch after Burnett and Halladay. The Blue Jays are blessed with two solid left-handed relievers in Jesse Carlson and Brian Tallet and the Phillies wouldn't mind prying one of them away to add to their bullpen.

Carlson (2-1, 1.80, 43 games) is in his first season in the majors with some pretty impressive results. Left-handers are hitting just .207 against Carlson and right-handers aren't much better, averaging just .237 against the rookie southpaw. For a rookie, Carlson has shown amazing poise and thrives on pressure situations, having allowed hitters just a .129 average with runners in scoring position.

Brian Tallet's name hasn't come up too often in trade talks, but the Phillies are in the market for a pitcher exactly like him and the Blue Jays are willing to deal. In fact, Tallet could be the real focus of a Phillies/Blue Jays trade. (Photo: Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Tallet has been up and down from the majors to the minors since first reaching the majors with Cleveland in 2002. Tallet came into the season with a career 3.72 ERA and has improved that with his 3.11 performance this season.

With the emergence of Carlson, the Blue Jays could afford to deal Tallet, who is making just $0.640 million this season and has two more seasons of arbitration before he's eligible for free agency. In Tallet, the Phillies would have a relatively inexpensive situational left-hander who would be under their control through the 2009 season.

If the Phillies do set their focus on either Burnett or Halladay, the price tag - in terms of the finances - goes up considerably. Halladay is owed about $5 million for the rest of this season and another $30 million over the next two years. Burnett has about $6 million left on his deal for this season with another $24 million guaranteed over the next couple of seasons.

The finances actually bring up an interesting scenario. If Toronto is looking to free up some salary space, dealing Halladay or Burnett makes sense. Meanwhile, the Phillies wouldn't mind finding somewhere to dump Adam Eaton and his salary, which won't be easy. With Eaton due almost $4 million for the rest of this season and $9 million for next season and a buyout, Toronto could still save a bunch of money by taking Eaton back as part of the trade and answer the Phillies concerns about taking on too much salary.

In terms of players, a deal for Burnett would likely cost something like Eaton, Carlos Carrasco, Greg Golson and a mid-to-lower level prospect. For Halladay, expect to replace the lower level prospect with someone like Jason Donald or possibly put another pitching prospect into the mix somewhere in the deal. A deal for either of the left-handed relievers would be easier to handle prospect-wise, costing likely just one key prospect and another lesser prospect, but in that case, Toronto would likely have no incentive to take on Adam Eaton.

Toronto and Philadelphia match up well in terms of trading partners. The two teams are headed in different directions and have complimenting needs in terms of what type of players they would be willing to give up in a deal, although ideally, the Phillies will be able to find the help that they need without giving up more than one bona fide prospect.

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