The Kansas City Royals are in talks with the Philadelphia Phillies regarding a trade for right-hander A.J. Burnett, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. However, Rosenthal notes that nothing is currently close between the two clubs.
The Royals have been open about their search for a right-handed hitting outfielder, however, the market for such players isn't particularly deep, especially now that Jonny Gomes is off the table. As Andy McCullough of The Kansas CIty Star points out, this lack of a market seems to have led the Royals to focus on adding to their pitching staff. Along with Burnett, Kansas City has been linked to such starters as John Lackey, Bartolo Colon, and Ian Kennedy. According to FOX Sports' Jon Morosi, the Royals have inquired about Jorge De La Rosa of the Colorado Rockies as well.
The Royals' rotation hasn't been particularly awful nor good this season, ranking 18th in the majors in WAR (6.7), and 15th in ERA (3.84), though their rotational FIP (4.18) is the fourth worst mark in baseball. Despite this, it's not clear who exactly the Royals would drop out of their rotation if they acquired another starter, as Jason Vargas is expected to return from the DL soon, giving the club a full five-man rotation of Vargas, James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, and Jeremy Guthrie. A desire to limit the innings of Ventura and/or Duffy could be one reason for the Royals' interest in adding a starter.
After posting a 108 ERA+, 3.17 FIP, and 7.0 WAR over the past two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Burnett has been lackluster in his first season with the Phillies. In 149.2 innings, the 37-year-old has a 4.15 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 1.92 K/BB, and 1.0 WAR. He also leads the NL with 64 walks issued this season.
Burnett, who is still a serviceable back-end starter with the potential to be more, has his value slightly hindered by a $15 million mutual option for 2015 that becomes a $7.5 million player option if the team declines. This could play a large factor in a trade to the Royals, as Kansas City is limited financially, and Burnett's contract may be too much to take on without the Phillies covering some of the costs.