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Tom Verducci on A.J. Burnett

Tom Verducci's mailbag column this week leads off with a question on A.J. Burnett:

A.J. Burnett is 0-6 during his last seven starts and has been told to go home by the Marlins for his rip job of the coaching staff. How much has this late-season slide hurt his chances to cash in this winter in the free-agent market? Or are the big-market teams going to stage a bidding war on him regardless of his uneven track record and apparent attitude problems? -- Ben Field, Pompano Beach, Fla.

I talked to one AL scout who actually was happy Burnett stumbled so badly because it might turn off other interested teams or lower the price. But I don't think it matters too much. He's the best arm available and is looking at a four-year contract in the neighborhood of $48 million. I don't think that's changed because of his slump -- though he could have earned more by coming up big down the stretch. There's just too much demand for an arm like his and still a tremendous upside. The question is, does he turn out to be Darren Dreifort or Jason Schmidt? He better go somewhere where he's not asked to be the ace right away. He'd be perfect behind Roy Halladay in Toronto, for instance.