Burnett’s declined player option gives the Phils flexibility

A.J. Burnett declining his $12.75 million player option may have been the best idea not just for himself, but for the Phillies as well.

The money saved from Burnett’s declined option can now be used toward either investing in multiple players or making a run at Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, according to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.

“It was good for our organization to have this flexibility,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Tuesday afternoon. “It allows us to make a different set of choices as to how we want to move forward. Ultimately, both parties hoped things would have worked out a little better here, but they didn’t.”

That said, the Phillies are not in the market for a veteran starter to round out a rotation that currently includes Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Jerome Williams and David Buchanan.

Instead, the Phillies could invest this excess money in multiple bargain-type starting pitchers to improve the organization’s overall depth at the position. Keep in mind that Lee is coming off a left elbow injury and Hamels is one of the Phillies’ numerous trade candidates.

At the top of that trade candidates list — which seems to include just about anybody on the roster — sits first baseman Ryan Howard. Given the $60 million remaining on Howard’s contract, however, it may be tough to find a potential trade partner. That’s yet another area where Burnett’s declined option may benefit the Phillies, as they could put some of that extra money towards paying off part of the remaining money due to Howard in any potential deal.

“We’ve been given the flexibility to [take on salary to move players],” Amaro said. “It’s just like any situation. You take back and subsidize more money depending on the talent that you get back. All I can tell you is we’re open-minded and we’ve been given a lot of flexibility by our ownership group. And they’ve always been very flexible in this regard.”

The Phillies’ immediate plans remain entirely unclear, but the vibe from Amaro seems to suggest that the organization plans on making the most of the money freed up by Burnett’s decision.Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies.

— Paul Casella

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