A Minor Move That Could Pay Major Dividends

With Atlanta’s recent signing of B. J. Upton, the hot stove is no longer tepid.  We should start seeing many other major moves throughout baseball in the near future.  And while the Rangers are seemingly among the teams being discussed for just about every potential major move, they have yet to make anything more than a barely perceptible ripple.  But that ripple very well could eventually be bigger than anyone could possibly imagine.
On November 28, the Rangers sent a player to be named later (or cash considerations) to San Diego in exchange for a relief pitcher whose 18 career big league innings and 5.50 ERA so underwhelmed the Padres they were actually in the process of releasing him before Texas stepped in.  The reliever in question is a 25-year-old right hander named Cory Burns, whose unimpressive major league resume does not tell the whole story.

Burns was drafted in the 8th round by the Indians in 2009, where he put up some pretty amazing number in their farm system.  In 2010, he amassed a whopping 42 saves in his stint with two teams at different levels, which was the second-highest total for any pitcher in all of minor league baseball that season.  He followed that up by posting 35 saves for Cleveland’s AA affiliate, Akron, which earned him MLB.com’s Double-A Relief Pitcher of the Year award.

Just under one year ago (12/16/2011, to be exact), the Padres were so impressed with Burns that they traded for him.  This paid immediate dividends for their AAA affiliate, Tucson, where Burns racked up 78 strikeouts in 66 innings, with only 17 walks and limiting opponents to a .205 batting average.

Although his numbers after his midseason call-up in 2012 are not too impressive, it’s a small sample size and was his very first taste of the big leagues.  It seems more logical to focus on what he did during the four seasons he spent in the minors, where he averaged better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings, with a career .980 WHIP during his time on the farm.

Last year, the Rangers were able to get a significant contribution from a young reliever few expected anything out of before the season.  That was Robbie Ross.  Burns very well could be the 2013 version of Ross.  With Alexi Ogando returning to the starting rotation and Mike Adams likely to sign elsewhere due to high demand (and dollars), the Rangers are going to need a strong right arm to help fill that void in their bullpen.

There’s certainly no guarantee Burns can step in and help plug that hole in the Rangers’ bullpen, but given his talented arm and the calming, nurturing influence of that master shoulder-toucher Mike Maddux, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if this seemingly minor move ends up paying major dividends for the Rangers – in 2013 and beyond.

Bob Bland is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Bob.Bland@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @SDIBob.

Robert Pike

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