Thursday, December 23, 2010, 9:35 a.m.
By Mark Zuckerman
NATIONALS PAGE NATIONALS VIDEO
The Washington Nationals have signed reliever Sean Burnett to a two-year contract with a team option for a third year, according to a source close to the left-hander.
Burnett, who was entering the second of his three arbitration seasons, will make 1.4 million in 2011 and 2.3 million in 2012. He would be eligible for free agency at that point, but the Nationals have the choice of either picking up a 3.5 million option for 2013 or paying a 250,000 buyout. Burnett could also elect to opt out of the third year, sacrificing the buyout but becoming a free agent.
The deal should become official later today once the 28-year-old passes a physical.
Burnett has become a vital member of the back end of the Nationals' bullpen since his acquisition from the Pirates as part of the June 2009 trade that also brought Nyjer Morgan to D.C. in exchange for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan. He has established himself as manager Jim Riggleman's top left-hander in late innings, not strictly as a matchup specialist but as a trusted reliever who usually is asked to record three outs and sometimes more.
Burnett went 1-7 with a 2.14 ERA in 73 appearances this season, notching three saves while striking out while posting a 3.1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's expected to be the Nats' top setup man again in 2011, perhaps getting an occasional save opportunity if the situation presents itself. The new contract includes bonuses for games finished.