Rays sign Burrell for 2 years

Updated: January 6, 2009, 11:25 AM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

Pat Burrell's last swing of the bat in 2008 was a double against Tampa Bay in Game 5 of the World Series.

Now, his first swing of the bat in 2009 will be as a member of those very same Rays, having signed a two-year, $16 million contract Monday.

The agreement was first reported by FoxSports.com.

Burrell will donate a portion of his contract to the Rays Baseball Foundation, the official charity of the Rays, the team said in a statement.

Burrell, 32, is expected to serve primarily as the Rays' everyday designated hitter. He has been the Philadelphia Phillies' regular left fielder for the past eight seasons, but was removed for a late-inning defensive replacement in 100 of the 154 games he started in 2008. And the Fielding Bible assigned him a minus-20 rating for 2008, meaning he made 20 fewer plays than an average left fielder. He did finish fourth in the NL in assists with 12, however.

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"At the end of last year, obviously I got a chance to know the team pretty well," said Burrell, who hit .250 with 33 homers, 33 doubles, 86 RBIs and 102 walks in a career-high 157 games in 2008.

"Coming into free agency, the thing that was most important to me was to go somewhere I thought had as good a chance or better to repeat and go back to the World Series, or at least get into the playoffs."

Burrell's signing is an indication that the holding pattern on free-agent outfielder/DHs is finally about to loosen. Of the more than 30 free-agent outfielders on the market, only three -- Raul Ibanez (Phillies), Juan Rivera (Los Angeles Angels) and Willy Taveras (Cincinnati Reds) -- signed multiyear deals before the first of the year.

Now, however, Burrell has signed, and Milton Bradley has agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. The Rays had pursued both Burrell and Bradley, with Bradley believed to be their top choice. But when it became clear that Bradley was going to wind up in Chicago, they quickly moved in Burrell's direction.

"He solidifies the middle of our already potent lineup," vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.

"We weren't just singularly focused on a right-handed hitter, but it certainly is an advantage for us in terms of the way our lineup stacks up currently. We feel like any time you can add a hitter like Pat to the middle of the lineup, we're a much-improved team today than we were at the end of last season."

Possible Rays '09 lineup

Position Player (bats)
2B A. Iwamura (L)
CF B.J. Upton (R)
LF C. Crawford (L)
3B E. Longoria (R)
1B C. Pena (L)
DH P. Burrell (R)
RF M. Joyce (L)
C D. Navarro (S)
SS J. Bartlett (R)
Tampa Bay's other primary free-agent target, Jason Giambi, now is expected to rejoin the Oakland Athletics. The A's have made major progress in their negotiations with the first baseman, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reports.

Sources told Olney that Oakland could sign Giambi in the next few days to a one-year deal with an option for a second year.

Burrell had hoped to return to Philadelphia, the only place he'd played in his nine-year career. But the Phillies never seriously negotiated with him this winter. And when they signed Ibanez to a three-year, $31.5 million contract last month, it was a clear statement that the Phillies were ready to turn the page on the guy they'd once made the first overall pick in the 1998 draft.

Burrell never fulfilled those "Next Mike Schmidt" predictions in Philadelphia. But he did join Schmidt as the only players in Phillies history with at least eight consecutive 20-homer seasons. Burrell will leave Philadelphia ranked third on the Phillies' all-time homer list with 251.

He'll also join an exclusive group of players who went from one World Series team to another between seasons. Since 1970, just four players -- and two position players -- played in the World Series for one team and then played for the other World Series team in the player's first game the next year, according to the Elias Sports Bureau: Edgar Renteria (2004 St. Louis Cardinals, 2005 Boston Red Sox), Gary Thomasson (1978 New York Yankees, 1979 Los Angeles Dodgers), Tommy John (1978 Dodgers, 1979 Yankees) and Don Gullett (1976 Reds, 1977 Yankees).

Friedman didn't close the door on the possibility of making more moves this winter, but he conceded the addition of Burrell "will dramatically hinder our flexibility going forward."

"We're going to continue to monitor what's going on and try to figure out if there's the right fit," Friedman said. "It's just about getting creative and seeing if there are ways we can continue to improve.

"But as we stand, we feel like we have a better team than we had last year. We feel like our pitching and defense will remain strong, and we feel like our lineup has gotten a lot better. We're happy where we are, but we're never content."

Burrell, who has lived the past few offseasons in nearby Clearwater, said he felt fortunate to have played in Philadelphia as long as he did. At the same time, he's excited about the challenge of helping a young team realize its potential.

"I think this team is going to competitive for a long time. ... As a little bit older player ... I'm here to help," Burrell said. "Anything and everything I can to help this team win, I'll do."

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN The Magazine senior writer Buster Olney and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com