Sure, it's a terrific idea for the Phillies to sign free-agent right-hander

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A.J. Burnett. He might just be a perfect fit. In fact, Burnett might make them a playoff team.

That's a tougher call, because maybe 13 of the 15 National League teams believe they're good enough to make the postseason. Plenty of things have to go right for the Phillies, but that's true of a lot of other teams, too.

At 37, Burnett is coming off a season in which he was as good as ever. He pitched 191 innings and struck out 209 for the Pirates. Burnett's 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings was the best in the NL, and his 3.30 ERA was very good.

Given Burnett's work ethic and durability -- he has averaged 200 innings the last six seasons -- there's no reason to think he doesn't still have something left in the tank.

Burnett brings something else to the job, something a bit harder to describe. He has a touch of ornery in him, especially every fifth day. That edge, that "it's me against you, buddy boy" attitude plays well during the grind of a long season.

Anyway, yes, signing Burnett would be a nice move for the Phils. He'd slot in nicely behind Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and right in front of Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez.

The Phillies have dozens of questions, and the rotation is among them. If there really is no such thing as a bad one-year contract, Burnett might just be an excellent one.

OK, I know what some of you are saying. "Oh great, the Phillies get another old guy."

Right. The Phillies are not a young team. This is no news flash. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Lee, Mike Adams and Marlon Byrd are all 35. Ryan Howard is 34.

Big deal. It's going to be these old guys who decide how far Philadelphia will go this season. And it's these old guys who've led this franchise for a decade.

These old guys have changed the way people think about this franchise. The Phillies won the NL East five straight times from 2007-11. Along the way, they filled almost every seat at Citizens Bank Park and made the atmosphere loud and raucous and as good as any in baseball.

Around the game, these old guys were known not just for producing, but for competing hard every single day. In the long history of the Phils, these old guys are going to be as highly regarded as any era of the past.

And the truth is that none of us know what they have left in the tank. Howard has played 151 games the last two seasons. He hit just .173 against left-handed pitching in both 2012 and '13.

The Phillies were a bad offensive team in 2013 -- 13th in the NL in runs, 14th in walks, ninth in home runs -- and they desperately need another big season from their big guy.

Let's just say the Phils are hopeful. Howard is again healthy, and he could change the look of that lineup.

Likewise for Rollins. He's in his free-agent year and beginning his 15th season with Philadelphia. In those 15 years, Rollins has been about as entertaining and as productive as any player they've had.

Rollins is also 35 years old but coming off a season in which he had 36 doubles, 59 walks and 22 stolen bases. He has batted only .251 the last two seasons, but if he repeats his 2013 numbers in '14 and if Howard does his thing, the Phillies could be dramatically better on offense.

Yes, they're old. They didn't get any younger this offseason with the signings of Byrd and Ruiz.

That's not the point. The Phils are committed to this core group. Howard, Lee, Hamels, Utley and closer Jonathan Papelbon are all signed through 2015.

The Phillies long ago made a commitment to keep the guys who'd helped them finish first five straight years together. Who can argue with that? What was the alternative? To give them gold watches and wish them well? What message would that have sent to the fans buying all those tickets?

Franchises don't have windows of opportunity like this very often, and everything general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. did this offseason was about keeping the band together for one more run.

In a perfect world, there would be a generation of younger players from the farm system on the way to push and relieve the older guys. But player development is cyclical, too, and these last few years haven't been a great one for the Phils.

So Amaro did the best he could to work around the edges. He traded for 25-year-old center fielder Ben Revere a year ago and got an All-Star season out of 26-year-old left fielder Domonic Brown in 2013.

Amaro re-signed Ruiz and added Byrd this winter, and now he is apparently taking a long look at Burnett to gauge fit and cost. There's nothing baseball writers like more than telling a team how to spend its money. Burnett would be worth the money, and here's betting Amaro sees it the same way.

Burnett's heart may lead him back to the Pirates, but for the Phillies, looking for one more special season from this group, it's worth a try.

News Source : Sure, it's a terrific idea for the Phillies to sign free-agent right-hander

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