An idea of how big a deal Burnett could land

You know your team has probably put together a solid season when five different players receive votes in your league’s Most Valuable Player balloting.

As I mentioned last night, first baseman Adam LaRoche, shortstop Ian Desmond, left-hander Gio Gonzalez, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and center fielder Bryce Harper all found their way onto at least one National League MVP ballot.

It was nice to see LaRoche recognized for his strong season and finish tied for sixth, and Desmond (tied for 16th) was certainly deserving of the attention he received by voters, as well.

If I had predicted back in March that LaRoche and Desmond would both finish among the top 20 in MVP voting, I probably would have been laughed off this blog.

A lot can change in a season’s time.

The Braves had six players receive votes, but the Nationals were right behind them, tying with the Reds for the second-most players to end up on the MVP voting list.

There has been little to report on the free agent market this week, as teams and players are still kind of feeling each other out. Players are taking time to figure out where their market value stands, and teams are kicking the tires on a number of different options, determining where their priorities will lie and figuring out alternate possibilities should their top targets end up elsewhere.

Sean_Burnett_throwing_white-sidebar.jpgWe haven’t heard much about Sean Burnett in the last week or so, but we did get an idea of what kind of deal Burnett will likely receive when his fellow left-handed reliever, Jerremy Affeldt, finalized a three-year, $18 million deal with the Giants earlier this week.

That’s a pretty hefty deal for a set-up guy, but it tells us what the market will be like this winter. There’s a lot of money out there, and quality free agents will cash in.

Burnett and Affeldt were viewed as the top left-handed set-up guys on the market, and even though Burnett is coming off minor elbow surgery which he had just after the season, he might even have slightly more value than Affeldt.

Burnett, 30, is three years younger than Affeldt. While most of their numbers match up pretty evenly, Burnett’s strikeout-to-walk ratio over the last three years is higher than Affeldt’s, and his ERA+ over that three year span, an advanced stat which adjusts a pitcher’s ERA according to the ballpark he’s pitching in, is significantly better than the Giants lefty’s.

Because of Burnett’s age, it’s entirely possible he ends up landing a four-year contract in the $20-24 million range, a deal which the Nats might be hard-pressed to match.

There aren’t many quality left-handed set-up guys available this year, and with Affeldt already off the market, Burnett will be able to play one interested team off the other, if he so chooses.

The Nats are interested in retaining Burnett, but how high will they be willing to go? Can they pay $20 million or more for a set-up guy when they have other areas they need to address, including bringing in another starter and retaining Adam LaRoche?

We shall see.

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