Potential Player of Interest: Jared Burton | The Process Report

Potential Player of Interest: Jared Burton

To think, the offseason hasn’t started yet, but  change has been the theme in Tampa Bay. A new head of baseball operations and (eventually) new manager will dominate the winter headlines, in part  because the team that begins 2015 could look much like the one that ended 2014. Each projected positional starter is under contract or team control; ditto for the rotation and bullpen. Still, we know some changes are coming—a chunk of which will arise from trades. But if the Rays under Matt Silverman operate as they did with Andrew Friedman calling the shots, then they’re unlikely to pass on a bargain. Here is one of those potential cases.

In mid-October, the Twins declined their $3.6 million option on right-handed reliever Jared Burton. Considering his age (33) and performance in 2014, they were well within logic of not wanting to invest that much into an aging middle reliever who may very well be declining.

Enter Tampa Bay.

The Rays do not necessarily need to sign another reliever. As mentioned before, the relief depth chart reaches double-digits and that was before the team signed Michael Kohn or factored in the potential for an out-of-option starter like Alex Colome. But, for the right price—i.e. less than his option—Burton has many attributes akin to the Rays’ way of relieving.

Burton’s best pitch – even in a down season – is a mid-80s changeup. He keeps the off-speed option down and close enough to the zone that hitters are enticed to chase it. And despite mediocre stuff around it, they do chase and miss frequently. Burton is not afraid to use it against batters on both sides of the dish; a trait valued by Tampa Bay. In addition to the changeup, he throws a low-90s fastball and slider. The breaking ball can miss bats but at times stops short of it’s intended location, becoming a tumbling 85-mph meatball. The fastball, a pitch he likes to elevate, can also miss location – typically belt-high – which again is hittable. None of these problems are uncommon of most middle relievers, but not all have a plus changeup.

In Tampa Bay, Burton would not be asked to do much heavy lifting or slay many late-inning dragons, tasks he was sometimes saddled with in Minnesota. Instead, he could roam free in the middle innings where he would be encouraged to unleash the changeup at will—sort of like Alex Torres and Brad Boxberger in the past.

At the same time, the Rays, already planning on a reduced payroll, might be better served dedicating available funds elsewhere. Still, dollars aside, the Rays and Burton are an apparent match of talent and organizational philosophy. If he falls far enough in free agency maybe the two sides come together at a point where those dollars start to make some sense.

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