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Will Burrell Stay Or Go?

That is the question of the offseason already. Burrell devoted the first 11 years of his professional career to the Philadelphia Phillies, and at 32, is looking for a three-year deal so he can settle a bit, maybe start a family.

But the Phils opened discussions with a proposed two-year deal worth $22 million. Not good enough, Burrell said. It’ll probably take a 3Y/$36M contract to haul Burrell back to Philadelphia. Maybe the $32M-$35M range if he really wants to stay. But the three years are a given.

The only way I can see three years working is if the Phils decide to trade Ryan Howard before 2011, Burrell can round out his contract at first base. But that’s a little too far away, and too conditional, to commit to a contract.

That said, I don’t think the Phils should give Burrell three years. I would even hesitate with two years. To me, Burrell is a home run hitter with a slight tendency to walk and single. His on-base percentage was down to .367, though his slugging was at its highest since his 37-homer season. He resembles too much of a right-handed Howard at this point to commit to any longterm deals. And what the Phils really need is a contact-suited hitter who can also hit for power from the right side.

General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. talked about a possible replacement:

“If Pat Burrell is not with us, we know we’re going to have a void in leftfield,” Amaro said. “We might have to deal with that internally with the Geoff Jenkinses of the world and the Matt Stairses of the world.”

That quote immediately points me to Rocco Baldelli of the Rays, who hit .263 with 4 HR and 13 RBI in 80 AB this season, coming back from a wealth of ailments. He could be had for relatively cheap (a 2Y/$4MM deal seems right), and is a righty who can stroke lefties.

Other options include:

Milton Bradley: He hit .321 with 22 HR and 77 RBI for Texas. The 31-year-old will be looking for a two- to three-year deal worth about $7MM per year.

Juan Rivera: Injury plagued the last two years, Rivera hit just .246 with 12 HR and 45 RBI, but did hit .310 in 2006 with 23 HR and 85 RBI. He’d probably want a two-year deal worth about $2MM per year.

Jason Michaels:
The former Phillie fits Amaro’s quote. He hit 8 HR with 53 RBI in 123 games last season. He’s not really a bonafide contact hitter, but he could platoon in any field. He would also be a cheap $2M-$3M per year.

Casey Blake: He could play the outfield. He hit .274 with 21 HR and 81 RBI between the Indians and Dodgers. I see him wanting at least two years, and at least $5MM per year. The Indians may have an inside track on him.

From the left side, the Phils could look at Raul Ibanez, Mark Kotsay, Garret Anderson, Brad Wilkerson or Bobby Abreu.

I know Ibanez is being discussed, but I really don’t see the Phillies adding another left-handed bat. Why do so when they already have Jenkins and, possibly, Stairs? That aside, Ibanez wouldn’t be a bad two-year deal, but for his asking price of about $6MM, I’d rather go for Bradley.

And that’s my top choice: Milton Bradley. Yes he’s a nuisance, but with a winner things could change. I see him as a nice, under-the-radar fit for the offense. I’m not keen on going cheap with a Baldelli or Michaels, but who knows — either could work in a platoon situation with Jenkins.

Now, if it’s Burrell or Bradley for two years? I’d maybe go with the latter.

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