01/05/09 6:44 PM EST
Rays land power bat in Burrell
Right-handed slugger signs two-year, $16 million contract
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
On Monday afternoon, the Rays signed the free-agent slugger to a two-year, $16 million deal.
"First of all, at the end of last year, obviously, I got to know the [Rays] pretty well," Burrell said. "And coming into free agency, the thing that was most important to me was to go somewhere where I thought I had as good a chance or better to repeat and go back to the World Series."
Burrell, who pledged to donate a portion of the contract to the Rays Baseball Foundation -- the official charity of the Rays -- fills the team's need at designated hitter. The 32-year-old also gives the Rays a much-needed power boost from the right side.
Burrell has a home in nearby Clearwater, Fla., which factored into his decision, but wasn't the deciding factor.
Having a home in Clearwater "does play a pretty big part, because I'm familiar with the area," Burrell said. "More importantly, I think it had to do with the makeup of the team here -- how close they got last year to winning the whole thing and the youth that makes up the majority of this team. I think this team is going to be competitive for a long time."
Burrell has spent all nine of his Major League seasons with the Phillies. He has a .257 lifetime average with 251 home runs and 827 RBIs. Last season, he hit .250 with 33 homers and 86 RBIs for the World Series champions.
Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations, said Burrell brings a myriad of valued qualities other than just his power.
"The way he grinds at-bats, it fits in very well with what we look for," Friedman said. "As far as a hitter, very good plate discipline and power combo. We feel like he fits in very well with our existing personnel and will make our lineup even stronger."
Burrell said he is joining the Rays with a purpose.
"I'm here to help," Burrell said. "Anything and everything I can do to help this team win, I'm going to do. I've played every day for a number of years in Philadelphia. This is a team that's made up of a very good core of young everyday players. And if there's anything I can do to help, I'll certainly do everything I can."
Throughout the offseason, the Rays have talked to a number of free agents, including Milton Bradley, Jason Giambi, Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu and Ken Griffey Jr. Friedman and the Rays took action quickly before the big names were off the market.
"For us, it was trying to find that optimal time, and that optimal time has to line up with the players as well," Friedman said. "As we were going through it, we felt it was important for us to get one of our top guys and not end up in a situation where, when the music stopped, we were looking at the sixth or seventh guy on the list. All those things factored in. We felt like now was the appropriate time to do something, and we're thrilled we were able to add Pat."
Burrell said he was pleased to be off the market.
"Who knows what's going to happen, there's still plenty of time for a lot of players," Burrell said. "But I don't think this is the offseason a lot of people expected. I feel very fortunate to have accepted a deal, and now I can look forward to getting ready to play."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.