A.J. Burnett A Match For the Pirates?

There has been talk all off-season that the New York Yankees are trying to unload right handed pitcher A.J. Burnett. Recently, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Yankees were still trying to deal Burnett so that they could add additional payroll flexibility to retain Eric Chavez and one of Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, or Raul Ibanez.

MLB Trade Rumors looked at the possible fits for Burnett earlier today, and the Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the four teams mentioned. We’ve heard the two sides linked on Burnett talks from earlier this off-season when the Pirates expressed interest in Burnett.

Burnett is owed $16.5 M a year over the next two years, and the Yankees are certainly going to have to pick up a large part of that salary in order to unload him. MLBTR speculated today that the Yankees might have to eat all but $8-10 M of Burnett’s salary.

Burnett can block a trade to ten teams, but Ken Rosenthal reports that the Pirates aren’t one of those teams. Rosenthal was the one who originally reported the talks between the two clubs.

Buster Olney came up with an interesting idea earlier today about a Garrett Jones for Burnett swap, with New York picking up 90 percent of Burnett’s salary. That scenario would put Burnett at about $1.5 M owed per year, and would fill New York’s need for a left handed bench bat.

The big question in all of this is whether Burnett is worth anything. Regardless of how much of the $33 M the Yankees pick up, the Pirates would still be spending money on a pitcher. Would that pitcher be worth the price, and would Burnett upgrade the current rotation?

Burnett has been a 1.5 WAR pitcher the last two years, mostly due to his innings. The results in those innings haven’t been strong, with a combined 5.20 ERA. His secondary numbers haven’t been bad, with a 7.6 K/9, a 3.8 BB/9, and a 1.3 HR/9. His advanced stats suggest he should have been better, with a 4.49 xFIP in 2010 and a 3.86 xFIP in 2011.

The 6′ 4″ right hander turned 35 last month, so there would be concerns that his last two years were the beginning of the end of his career, which has spanned for parts of 13 seasons.

Some might suggest that the results were due to the new Yankee stadium and playing in the AL East. Burnett never had a problem playing in the AL East with Toronto, where he had a 3.94 ERA over three years. He also has a career 4.14 ERA in 299.2 innings at new Yankees Stadium, so that doesn’t seem to be the issue.

Then there’s the “a move to the National League could help” theory. Burnett pitched in the National League for seven years with the Marlins, putting up a 3.73 ERA in 853.2 innings. But he last pitched in the National League at the age of 28. He did have good results last year in interleague play, with a 3.96 ERA in 25 innings. That wasn’t necessarily the case the year before, when he had a 16.55 ERA in 10.1 innings. Neither would be a good sample size to go on.

The Pirates are looking to enter the 2012 season with a rotation of Erik Bedard, Charlie Morton, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, and Kevin Correia. Burnett would be an upgrade over Correia, and his 190+ innings would be a good boost to a rotation that doesn’t feature any innings eaters. But how much do you pay for an upgrade over your fifth starter?

Burnett could have some upside, depending on whether you think a move to the National League could help, or whether you believe his advanced metrics are legit. He also has some red flags — age and horrible numbers the last two years — which would make teams less inclined to take a gamble on him. If the Pirates could get him with New York paying 90% of his salary, as Olney proposed, then it might not be that bad of a move, as the potential reward would outweigh the risk.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://twitter.com/jpbucco J.P. Greenland

    I don’t see the point in trading Jones. Pay a bit more of Burnett’s salary and give them a minor prospect. The payroll is already ridiculously low.

    • Nick Koll

      Agreed. Whether we like it or not, Jones is the prevalent part of a platoon at 1B this year, as he’ll play against right-handed pitching. If Jones is traded, you then Casey McGehee is starting at 1B full time, a scary thought to me.

      With the Pirates missing out on spending real money on another pitcher, they do have money so spending more to avoid giving up Jones makes sense to me.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AGRPLJJRC5GNBYXDY6LHF2U6DU white angus

        mcgehee has done fine in the majors so far.  i would bet on him improving before jones finally does.

        • john.alcorn

          Jones career ops .772, McGehee career ops .746 in nearly identical numbers of atbats.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AGRPLJJRC5GNBYXDY6LHF2U6DU white angus

      yes.  we must trade for Burnett straight up and pay his whole salary, cuz ya know, the pirates need to spend more bucks.  because…  just because.  ya know?

  • john.alcorn

    As is Burnett was better the last two years than Correia (2.9WAR vs 0WAR). Pay a bit more and trade someone of little consequence (like the Aaron Baker/Ludwick swap). Its not a franchise saving move, but it sure wouldn’t hurt. 

  • Trevor Kiefer

    Agreed, I think a if it cost Jones it should be a nogo. If we were willing to pay Oswalt and/or Jackson 10 mil, we could pay more of Burnetts salary

  • Anonymous

    the Yankees want a left handed hitter.

    If they can Ibanez as free agent they may not want Jones but would want some salary relief.

    That means the Bucs could get Burnett for someone like Aaron Baker as John.alcorn mentioned.  The Yankees would still need to kick in salary (maybe the Bucs pay $10 million a year).

    If the Yankees strikeout in getting other lefty hitters they may want Jones, if that is case deal him but give the Yankees less salary relief and maybe get another body back (Laird perhaps?)

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4LSEXGLZNW4GLRJXKLDGJRZMVA Dz5

       I think they meant that the yankees would pick up all but 8-10 mil of the contract, as in y rs at 8 to 10 mil or 4 to 5 a year I think that would be great!

  • James S

    I’d take him but I would NOT give up Garrett Jones for him. Make the Yankees take Correia or give them a semi-prospect.

    At least If they DO give up Garrett Jones, then they will have no excuse whatsoever to not sign Xavier Nady. But I still don’t think they have any excuse not to sign Nady, even WITH Garrett Jones on the team. He’s too good a hitter to ignore, especially considering his stats as a Pirate.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/RB6BJ5QYXVUGVLLTGTCNPETZS4 Josh

      Are you high? Did you watch baseball at all for the past two years? X-man is done, he has been undone by injuries. I would be surprised if he signed a major league deal anywhere.

      • James S

        What? He had Tommy John Surgery in 2008 and is fully recovered. He broke his left hand last year and is now fully recovered.
        There are no other injuries and he is perfectly healthy now.

        • john.alcorn

          .660 and .646 ops the last two years in over 500 ab’s, last year was in a great hitters park too. What in the world makes you think he can still hit?

          • James S

            Because he was still recovering from TJ surgery and wasn’t 100%.
            You always throw out the two years that follow TJ surgery for any player. What player have you ever known to be back to their original form during the two years that followed their TJ surgery?

            He is only 33. He’s not over the hill, he’s younger than Derrek Lee.

            I guarantee some team will sign him, probably to a minor league deal and he will make the team in spring training.
            The Giants are probably going to get him. He most likely doesn’t want to play for the Pirates anyway, and who could blame him?

  • Anonymous

    Maybe thats why the Bucs are working out Demitri Young. :)

    • James S

      The Pirates arent working him out. From what I read they are just going to watch him as he works out for many scouts.
      Every other time these things happen, another team usually ends up signing the player because the Pirates are lousy evaluators.

      This same scenario went downlast winter with Bartolo Colon and the Pirates took their lazy-ass time as usual, and the Yankees signed him instead. He went on to have a very good season and be the best Yankee starter.

      So I wouldnt count on them signing Dmitri. I don’t even think he will be much better than a Randall Simon-type, anyway at his age.
       

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DCSBMXQG7YCZ7V6F65UE5RBCMQ Jay

    “Burnett can block a trade to ten teams, but Ken Rosenthal reports that the Pirates aren’t one of those teams. ”

    Wow, when was the last time the Bucs were NOT included on someone’s limited no-trade clause?

  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

    I would be more than surprised if the Yankees would pay all but $1.5 million of Burnett’s salary.  If they did, sure it’s worth the gamble, pending a physical.  I wouldn’t give them Garrett Jones though.  I’d fork over a low level prospect.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/UBXVRCE5B3HOA3ITRN6DCURFX4 Joseph Wil

    It takes two to tango and only 1.5 million of salary relief for yankees will cost us more then a d level prospect.  I like Jones too, but I think it is everybody’s worry that he will be another Bautista if he leaves.  When in reality he is below replacement level at first base in his stats.  Also in reality barring something like a Bautista season he wont be tendered next year, becasue of the guarantee raise over this year arbitration number whater it ends up. 

  • Anonymous

    AJ Burnett would be an improvement over Correia but at 35 he is no longer the pitcher he was. On the other hand, Garret Jones is a bench player on any contending team. I think the fact that he has to platoon for the Pirates speaks volumes about his abilities. Sure, I like jones as much as the next guy but he is what he is…a role player. This is a move I think the Bucs should make if they can get Burnett for no more then $4 mil per year. If the Yankees don’t want to eat half of his salary then don’t make the deal. we don’t want another Matt Morris type contract to cripple us if Burnett has nothing left in the tank!!! That said, I think a move to the NL and a pitcher friendly park would help Burnett’s numbers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenneth.amell Kenneth Amell

    From  The  Fans Name is  Kenneth  Amell
    you  will  get  Garrett  Jones  deal  to  new  york  Yankees  Happy  Today  News  put  on  Tv and  ESPN RIGHT COW. com  See  him  Signed  CONTRACT