Trade Values: A.J. Burnett and Garrett Jones

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees discussing a A.J. Burnett trade. A big hold up with any Burnett trade is money, as the right hander is due $33 M total over the next two years, and is coming off two bad seasons with New York.

Yesterday there was some talk that the Pirates could be interested in Burnett, with the Yankees paying a bulk of his salary. Buster Olney speculated that a Garrett Jones for Burnett swap, with New York paying 90% of Burnett’s salary, might be appealing.

Tonight Olney reports that Jones is, in fact, the guy the Yankees want from the Pirates, but that the Pirates don’t want to move Jones. Olney added that the Yankees know they’ll have to eat a huge portion of Burnett’s salary, likely in the $25-27 M range.

To get an idea of the value of a Burnett deal, let’s take a look at his trade value:

A.J. Burnett

YEAR SALARY WAR VALUE
2012 $16.5 1.5 -$8.8
2013 $16.5 1.5 -$8.8
TOTAL $33.0 3.0 -$17.6

Explanation: Burnett has been a 1.5 WAR pitcher the last two years. That, plus his $16.5 M contract, makes him worth negative $8.8 M per year.

What He’s Worth: The Yankees would have to pick up $17.6 M in salary just to give Burnett away. Even then, the team that gets Burnett is getting no value on his 1.5 WAR. Burnett would be owed $7.7 M per year in that scenario. In order to get a grade C pitching prospect, the Yankees would have to pick up an additional $2-3 M, which takes Burnett down to $6 M a year.

So what about Garrett Jones?

Garrett Jones

YEAR SALARY WAR VALUE
2012 $2.3 1.0 $2.9
2013 $3.8 1.0 $1.4
2014 $5.0 1.0 $0.2
TOTAL $11.1 3.0 $4.5

Explanation: Jones was an 0.9 WAR player in 2011. He will likely see a bigger role in 2012, although I went conservative and just bumped him up to an even 1.0 WAR. His 2013 and 2014 salaries are arbitration estimates. Jones is eligible for arbitration in 2015, but it would provide negative value at a 1.0 WAR, so I didn’t include that.

What He’s Worth: Jones is worth $4.5 M over the remainder of his team control. This assumes he continues playing at the same rate as his 2011 season. If he improved even a slight amount to a 1.5 WAR player, his value would jump to $12-14 M, depending on whether you want to add that last arbitration year.

Jones for Burnett?

Value-wise, the Yankees would have to pick up $22.1 M just to match the value of Jones from his 2011 season. That would cost the Pirates $10.9 M over two years for Burnett. Of course if the Pirates value Jones higher than a 1.0 WAR player, then the deal wouldn’t make sense. The Yankees would basically have to pick up all of Burnett’s salary just to meet that price.

The Pirates seem set on going in to the year with Garrett Jones as their starting first baseman, with Casey McGehee platooning in the role. Trading Jones would seemingly leave McGehee as the first baseman, although I think Matt Hague could fill the platoon role against right handers. It’s also interesting that the Pirates will be working out Dmitri Young. At the present time it would make no sense to have Young. They’ve got Jones/McGehee in the majors, and Hague in AAA, plus they’ve got Nick Evans as a non-roster invitee.

The thing about all of this is that the Pirates seem to be in the driver’s seat. The Yankees are in a position where they need to clear Burnett’s salary to make room for Eric Chavez and a left handed DH bat. The Pirates seem to be the only team that would be willing to take Burnett, even if the Yankees are picking up all but $8-10 M of his salary. So the Pirates don’t really need to give up Jones and open a spot at first base. They could hold off and try to give up a lesser return, since the Yankees are short on options.

Personally I wouldn’t mind a Jones for Burnett swap, especially if the Yankees were eating $25 M. I’d like to finally see what Matt Hague could do, and I think Burnett has more upside than Jones. I don’t see Jones as a guy who will ever break out of the platoon role/power hitter off the bench situation he’s in now. Burnett, on the other hand, would have massive value to the Pirates if he somehow discovered his old form, especially with the Yankees paying most of his salary. And while I consider Matt Hague an average first baseman in the majors, the combo of Jones/McGehee doesn’t project as much better, and this finally gives the Pirates an opportunity to see if Hague is a long term solution.

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://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-YaZhynka/100000448392567 Richard Ya’Zhynka

    Bill James projects that Jones will hit 18 homeruns and have a .776 ops in 2012. He projects that Burnett will have a 4.32 ERA, a 4.36 FIP, and pitch 173 innings.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Beam/100001016052787 Matt Beam

      assume the Burnett projections are in the AL East, in the NL Central, I’m guessing 3.80 ERA and pitching 190-200 innings

  • Todd Smith

    If their highest asking price has us taking on $8MM over two years and giving up a 30 year old part time player, I have to think a deal is going to get done.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1279894444 Richard Haft

    I am not super thrilled with this trade rumor.  I think the other thing holding up any potential move of Garret Jones is the uncertainty in the outfield and with Alvarez.  You can’t just base trades off WAR numbers, you have to look at your team as a whole.  While Jones may never turn into a phenom like we glimpsed when he first came up, he kills right hand pitching and seems like a consistent lock as a .250 hitter with 20 homers.  If Alvarez puts up decent numbers and Tabata and Pressly show they can play over a whole year, and one of their first base prospects actually show something in the majors this year, then maybe Jones becomes expendable.  But what if Alvarez doesn’t come back?  Tabata and Pressly realistically needs to hit .300 (or even much over that) to make up for their lack of power.  What if they don’t? Then we have an outfield with Cutch and two mediocre no power corners.  Jones is only 30 and at first base can easily have 5 to 10 more years left in the majors.

    Do they really risk giving up one of their only power threats for a fifth starter?  Their staff looked pretty good last ear until they ran out of gas.  If they can pick up Burnet for a minor leaguer or even an outfielder with Marte coming up, then yes go for it.  They are thin at first base until someone in the minors shows they can play up here.

  • James S

    I’d say do it but get a couple of legitimate hitting prospects from the Yankees if they insist on Jones. The Yanks are over a barrell and there’s no reason to give them Jones, they know they can make the deal without Jones. But if the Yanks are so enamored, strike while the love is there and take them for all they can get.
    The hitting is already in need of major improvement anyway even with Jones on the team.

    I like Hague too but I would not project anything until he has faced major league pitching for a while. I don’t think he can match Jones’ power. Power is their greatest lack and giving up their most legit power guy is dumb. The right hand pitching platoon guy is the most important of the two and they can’t take this lightly, and they need way more power than they have right now even WITH Jones.

    I like the idea of getting Burnett though, I ‘ve always liked him and he’s had some tough luck the last couple years. He would definitely shore up the rotation.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_46YTB5OO4O7UM2OVB44UZSTXNA Nate

    If we kept Jones, what would the alternative trade options be?  
    Gorkys and …

    If we trade Jones, could we ask for a legit hitting prospect like you suggest?  

    Personally, I like the idea of trading Jones, paying a LITTLE more of Burnett’s salary to get a decent prospect as well, and letting Hague get a crack at 1st. 
     
    Tyler Austin (3B/ 20 yrs old) or Angelo Gumbs (2B/SS/19yrs old)??

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I’m not sure what type of prospect. It depends on how much the Yankees pay and what they’d want.

      I don’t think the Pirates could get a top prospect in return. But possibly someone in the 11-20 range of the Yankees system. Both of the names you mentioned fit that description. But the Pirates would have to take on more salary for that, and I’m not sure how likely this scenario would be.

  • James S

    I don’t know, reading between the lines it looks like The Pirates are not going to give up Jones period. I really wouldn’t blame them, they need every ounce of power hitting they can scrape up, especially if they don’t plan to bring any more power hitting onto the team.

    When other teams look at the Pirates, Garrett Jones is always the guy they want. I think the fans seriously undervalue Jones. The best press & evaluation you can have on a player is how many other teams covet him.

    The Pirates saying that they won’t give up Jones speaks volumes about their plans for getting any more power hitters. If they won’t give him up, they arent expecting any new additions either.
     

  • Anonymous

    Jones is a 4th outfielder and a platoon player at 1st. He’s not particularly outstanding at eeither position. He can’t hit a LHP and doesn’t really rake vs. righties. He’s been a good story, but he’s 30 and getting expensive.

    Burnett should improve in the NL. He’ll be in a weaker division than the Yankees face. To me, his biggest downfall is giving up too many HRs. Maybe PNC helps him there.

    IMO, NH is bluffing, either for more payroll from the Yanks or a throw-in like Nate suggested.

    This deal should happen soon.

  • Brian Bernard

    The interesting aspect of this potential deal to me is that there IS potential to get a prospect from the Yanks – but it has nothing to do with Jones – it is strictly about how much salary they ask the Yanks to pick up. Which if you think about it, is another very creative way to “draft” a prospect.
    The Burnett for Jones is actually secondary to $ for prospect opportunity to me – I’d like to see the clubs negotiate a nice number for another impact prospect. If it takes $5-10-15 million to get a top 10 prospect then do it. How much $ does it take to get Dante Bichette Jr ?

  • Anonymous

    To think that Jones is worthy of bringing in a top hitting prospect is to, as fans often do, overvalue our own player. There is no way that any prospect comes back in this scenario unless the Pirates send one back NY’s way and they pick up a lot more of the salary in return.

    Jones has been slightly above replacement level in his 2+ seasons and appears to be a good guy. The biggest thing that he has going for him is that the Pirates don’t seem to be willing to try Hague at 1B from the start of the season.

    On the other hand, Burnett is a solid middle of the rotation pitcher who would most likely benefit from a move back to the NL and having the majority of his starts being in PNC Park. Even in his last two seasons where his ERA was 5.20, he provided more value than Jones did (0.6 WAR vs Jones’ -0.1 WAR).

    He gives you an anchor to rely on in the rotation (avg 194IP over the last 5 seasons) in a season where you have an oft-injured Bedard and a post-surgery Morton as your best pitchers.

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

    Garrett Jones is a fit for PNC, and Yankee Stadium.  I don’t like trading away the only power threat from the left hand side, unless the healing waters of the Allegheny suddenly transform Nate again.

  • Anonymous

    Garrett Jones is better for the Yankees than he is for the Pirates.  The Yanks are over the barrell with Burnett’s salary.  The probably view Jones as a valuable piece to their team.  A left handed bat that can platoon in the outfield, 1st base and even DH.  Short right field porch, he will probably thrive in NY and the Yanks will pay him more than the Pirates and they won’t even blink an eye.  He won’t be counted on to be a starter, just a valuable cog in the machine.  The Pirates are on the welfare of the rest of the league, so anything valuable that they can get out of a average player will be good for the team.

    If this deal does go through, paying more of Burnett’s salary to possibly get a decent prospect is a no brainer.  The Pirates have plenty of money to spend, they just choose to be thrifty.  Burnett, IMO, would be solid, eat some innings and will be the ace of the Pirates pathetic staff.  They should start Cole on the majorleague roster and have him in the rotation.

  • Anonymous

    The bucs need to make this deal. Burnett would shore up a questionable rotation and he is a workhorse type starter. Sure, he isn’t the pitcher he was a few years ago but he is still solid and a move to the NL and PNC Park will help his numbers. I like Jones but he is what he is…a role player. The fact that Jones has to platoon for the Pirates speaks volumes to his abilities. If the Yankees are willing to eat 50%+ of Burnetts salary then this should be a done deal……