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A.J. Burnett is at last no longer a member of the New York Yankees, and he's made an effort to explain just what went wrong, and how things got derailed.
The A.J. Burnett deal is done and appears to be a good one for both sides... except in the view of one particular writer.
A.J. Burnett has not yet officially been traded from the New York Yankees to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but everybody's acting like he has. Because he basically has. All that's left is a physical he's not going to fail and getting approval from a commissioner who's going to give his approval. A.J. Burnett is essentially a Pirate now, with the difference between today and, say, Monday being that come Monday he'll have a Pirates uniform.
Over at SI, Joe Lemire talks about the trade in an article titled "Yanks simply had to unload Burnett." His perspective is that the Yankees simply had to unload A.J. Burnett. I don't even know why he bothered writing an article. It's all right there at the top!
In truth, Lemire has a lot to say, including stuff about the Yankees' motivation to move Burnett, the Pirates' motivation to get Burnett, and Burnett's Yankees legacy. A sample:
This trade, therefore, is a creative, albeit risky, solution to that predicament of finding a high-upside starting pitcher within the parameters of their budget. Pittsburgh is effectively acquiring a pitcher from the outlet store -- that he's not in mint condition makes him affordable.
It's a similar concept to the Athletics' signing of Cuban outfielder Yoenis Céspedes; Oakland couldn't afford a premium power hitter on the open market but it can pay mid-range dollars for one who has the tools to be a big slugger but doesn't have the experience that proves he'll be sure investment. Burnett might be a comparatively safer bet -- slightly -- because he does have a track record of success, even if he is now 35 and a few years removed from his peak.
Not too long ago, it was reported that the Philadelphia Phillies had some interest in re-signing free agent Roy Oswalt. However, the Phillies are apparently up against their budget, so to pay for Oswalt, they'd have to lose Joe Blanton, whose 2012 salary is $8.5 million. The Phillies haven't lost Joe Blanton. The Phillies haven't re-signed Roy Oswalt.
Perhaps you thought that would be the last you'd see of the Phillies in this offseason's notable rumors. You'd be wrong. Here they are in another one:
The other team involved in the A.J. Burnett talks was the Philadelphia Phillies. Obviously would've had to clear Blanton to make it work.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 17, 2012
Burnett's going to the Pirates unless something absolutely crazy happens, so the Phillies aren't changing. But one gets the sense that Ruben Amaro is one of them leg-bouncers. Just can't sit still. I don't know how realistic it ever was that A.J. Burnett could go to the Phillies, but Amaro made a point of finding out.
Incidentally, I bet Joe Blanton is feeling really great about himself these days.
A.J. Burnett is all but a Pirate, and an ex-Yankee. After several days of rumors, the two sides agreed Friday to terms of a trade that is now pending a physical and commissioner approval. Neither should be a big stumbling block. This is going down.
But the Yankees aren't only saving a little money. They're also receiving two minor leaguers - Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones, according to Dejan Kovacevic.
Moreno is a 25-year-old righty reliever who spent last year in single-A and double-A. He generated strong strikeout numbers and is capable of reaching the high-90s with his fastball. Also there's this, from Kovacevic:
[...] the Pirates began souring on him last summer in large part because of that suspension in 2010. Moreno was kissing a fan in the Class AA Altoona bullpen during a game and was suspended a week for "unprofessional conduct." In general, the team saw immaturity issues on and off the mound and, later that winter, left him exposed in the Rule 5 draft. No one claimed him.
Moreno, clearly, is not a top prospect. Neither is Cayones. The Yankees were never going to receive top prospects. Cayones is a 20-year-old lefty outfielder who was pursued by the Yankees before he signed with the Pirates as an international free agent some years back. He has spent his career to date in the very low minors, posting acceptable batting numbers with minimal power. As with most players like this, odds are Cayones never makes it. There is a slim chance he could make it, and a slimmer chance he could make it and be good.
So the Yankees are trading A.J. Burnett for salary relief and two young players. But, really, they're trading A.J. Burnett for salary relief.
A.J. Burnett has struggled for much of his Yankee tenure, but Pittsburgh might be exactly the cure for him.
If the official MLB Twitter feed is commenting on it, it's probably going to happen:
BREAKING: Yanks, Bucs agree to Burnett deal, source tells @MLBNetwork insider @Ken_Rosenthal. Trade needs MLB approval due to $ involved.
It should be a lot of $ involved, alright. Burnett is due $33 million over the next two years, and the Pirates have been reportedly interested in paying anywhere from $5 million to $12 million over those two years.
The trade will give the Pirates another experienced starter to put in a rotation that should feature Charlie Morton, James McDonald, and Erik Bedard. This move will either push Jeff Karstens or (All Star!) Kevin Correia out of the rotation.
The reports have the Yankees receiving two minor leaguers in the deal, though they're likely to be non-prospects who aren't part of the Pirates' long-term plans, such as they are. We already have reports that 2011 #1 pick Gerrit Cole is not -- repeat, is not -- part of the deal, so we can all stand down on that one.
Sources: Yankees and Pirates hope to take their proposed Burnett deal to the Commissioner later today, for approval
I know what that really means -- there are e-mails or faxes, possibly a phone call or six, to let the MLB office know how much money is exchanging hands. But the idea of the Yankees and Pirates taking the deal to Bud Selig is more interesting to me.
Selig: We have known each other many years, but this is the first time you've come to me for counsel or for help. I can't remember the last time you invited me to your stadium for a cup of coffee, even though my Brewers are in your own division. But let's be frank here. You never wanted my friendship. And you feared to be in my debt.
Pirates: What are you talking about? I come to you all the time. You sign the revenue-sharing checks.
Selig: I understand. You found paradise in Pittsburgh.
Pirates: Wait, what?
Selig: You have a good trade, you want to make a good team. Now you come and say "Bud Selig, give me the authority to accept millions of dollars so we can acquire A.J. Burnett for some reason." But you don't ask with respect. You don't offer friendship. You don't even think to call me "Commissioner." You come into my office on the day Wally Pipp was born, and you ask me to do think about A.J. Burnett - and money.
Yeah, it's a stretch, but you can totally picture him in a chair, stroking a cat while he says it.
From CBS Sports, it sounds like the deal is a formality at this point:
The reported A.J. Burnett-to-Pittsburgh deal is nearing completion, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has learned. Barring something unforeseen, the trade will be completed within the next one to three days. From there, Burnett will need to pass a physical while Major League Baseball will need to approve the deal.
Barring something unforseen?
Pirates Intern: Whoa, did you check out this Burnett guy's stats last year?
Neal Huntington: Holy crap. Ho-lee crap. Why didn't anyone tell me about this? What site is that? Baseball ... Reference? Well, I'll be.
Pedro Alvarez enters the room
Pedro Alvarez: You wanted to see me, Hunt?
Huntington: NO! I mean, you're fine. You're not going anywhere. You were never going anywhere in a trade today. Not at all. You're excused. Keith, get the Yankees on the line.
And now that I've hit my fake-conversation quota for the week, I'll see you on Monday. When A.J. Burnett will presumably be a Pirate.
From David Waldstein in The New York Times, the latest news about the city's second-biggest sports story:
The Yankees continued to engage in trade talks regarding A.J. Burnett on Wednesday, and according to one baseball official, it is even more likely now that Burnett will be traded. Until Wednesday, the same official said it was possible there would be no trade, but now it appears a deal will get done, and most likely before pitchers and catchers report on Saturday.
Okay, nothing there of real note. Burnett's probably going to be traded, as everyone's been saying for the last couple of weeks. And the likely trade partner hasn't changed, either ... But hey, what's this?
"According to the official, there are now two teams involved in talks with the Yankees: the Pirates and" ... wait for it ... "an unidentified team."
There it is! THE MYSTERY TEAM. Yay!!!!
Of course, it's the Times so they can't just say it's a MYSTERY TEAM. Because that sort of sounds like Mystery Machine, and you just can't have the Mystery Machine running around inside the Times, leaving skid marks and Scooby Snacks in its wake. That just wouldn't do, at all. So instead the team is unidentified. /boring
But we've got a MYSTERY TEAM here, friends. Which makes this little drama about three times more interesting than it was yesterday. Yesterday, it seemed we already knew the ending, and were just sitting through a little Act 2 flavor involving a few million bucks and a couple of players nobody's ever heard of.
All that's changed now. Now we might actually be surprised at some point in the next 48 hours. If you're pregnant, you probably already know if you're having a boy baby or a girl baby because by God you just couldn't help yourself could you. But by God you don't know which uniform A.J. Burnett will be wearing in spring training next week.
And that is a beautiful thing.
Yankees pitchers and catchers are to report to spring training this coming Sunday. When pitchers and catchers report, that generally signifies the end of the offseason, and the beginning of ... well, not quite the season, but something in between. The Yankees, though, still have some roster modification to do.
They're still in search of a left-handed DH. And they're still trying to move A.J. Burnett away from New York and to somewhere else. The most likely destination? As always, Pittsburgh. Those talks with the Indians about Travis Hafner reportedly never got off the ground. The Angels expressed some interest but Burnett has them on his no-trade list. And there was another team of unknown identity that won't be trading for Burnett either. Good story.
It's still the Pirates. The Yankees and the Pirates are trying to work something out, and by "trying to work something out," I mean the Yankees are trying to get the Pirates to cover what the Yankees believe would be enough of Burnett's remaining contract. Ken Rosenthal has an update:
The soft deadline for the A.J. Burnett trade discussions is Saturday - the day before the New York Yankees' pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Tampa.
The Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates continue to discuss a Burnett deal, but as of Wednesday morning the teams remained at an impasse, according to major-league sources.
Saturday is a soft deadline because Saturday isn't actually a deadline. Sure, it would be most convenient for the Yankees to deal A.J. Burnett before A.J. Burnett shows up and meets all his teammates, but it's not like moves can't be made after players arrive at camp. Burnett's teammates wouldn't be heartbroken if Burnett got dealt away. (I think.)
The Pirates are willing to eat $X remaining on Burnett's contract. The Yankees want the Pirates to eat $X + $Y. It's believed that $X + $Y = $13 million - $15 million. We'll see if the Yankees or Pirates budge in the coming days. For what it's worth, Rosenthal reports that, in the event of a trade, the Yankees would quickly turn around and sign Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez. They might just sign those guys anyway.
What we have these days is a wheelbarrow full of A.J. Burnett trade rumors. Unfortunately somebody knocked over the wheelbarrow and now the trade rumors are all over the place. See, over there? A.J. Burnett trade rumor. Here, under the sofa? A.J. Burnett trade rumor. Somebody's going to have to pick up all of these A.J. Burnett trade rumors!
The likelihood, as far as I can tell, is that A.J. Burnett will get traded, soon. And the likelihood, as far as I can tell, is that A.J. Burnett will get traded to the Pirates. He will probably get traded in exchange for two non-prospects, with the Yankees eating a big chunk of his salary.
So the big question is: just how much left does A.J. Burnett have to offer? Is he a big league-caliber starting pitcher, or is he the mess the Yankees can't wait to get rid of? At The Hardball Times, Chris Lund attempts to find the answer:
It’s not the A.J. Burnett we used to know and drool over, but it’s an A.J. Burnett who could be just as effective from a pitching standpoint. He’s no longer a top of the rotation starter in the AL East by virtue of his age if nothing else, but there is no reason why Burnett couldn’t be a 2.5-3.5 WAR pitcher once again. If he lands on a team in a weak division and a pitcher friendly park, he will be someone to keep an eye on.
Sorry for spoiling you with the conclusion right there. There's lots of other stuff before that paragraph. Burnett doesn't look like the pitcher he used to be, but there's a reason there are trade rumors - he's still an interesting guy, at a certain price, and he might have gas left in the tank. You can see why he's piqued the Pirates' curiosity.
We know that the Yankees and Pirates have been discussing A.J. Burnett for several days. I guess we don't know that for absolute certain, but there are so many reports on the subject that I'd be amazed if it were all lies. The Yankees and Pirates have been discussing A.J. Burnett, and it looks like the Yankees and Pirates will work out a trade involving A.J. Burnett.
But the Pirates are not the only team with which the Yankees have spoken. The Angels were said to have placed a call or two. Some other teams were said to be involved. And the Indians are or were involved, with specifics courtesy of Jon Heyman:
Yankees/indians talk revolves around aj and travis hafner. cleve unsure it would do that swap. yanks also don't mind the FA DH options
$16.5 million in 2012, $16.5 million in 2013
5.15 ERA last season
8.2 strikeouts-per-nine last season
$13 million in 2012, $2.75 million buyout for 2013
.811 OPS last season
Burnett's a ground-balling starter who could fit with Cleveland's other ground-balling starters, what with the guy formerly known as Fausto Carmona presently indisposed. Hafner's a lefty-hitting DH who could serve as the lefty-hitting DH the Yankees seek. But Burnett's a lot more expensive than Hafner is, with that guaranteed 2013 salary, so one can understand Cleveland's hesitation. Maybe something could materialize here, but it looks like the Pirates are still the heavy favorites in the A.J. Burnett Sweepstakes, which is a depressing sweepstakes.
Turns out this wasn't just a last-week thing. When we left off, the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates were talking about a trade involving A.J. Burnett. The motivation on the Yankees' side was to clear some payroll -- not to mention a slot for a better starting pitcher -- and the hold-up was that the Pirates hadn't agreed to take on enough of Burnett's salary.
We might be getting closer to an agreement. Jon Heyman:
#yankees, #pirates still talking aj. deal likely to get done w/ bucs paying $13-15M of $33M, & giving up 2 non-roster guys
Some reports have said the Yankees want the Pirates to take half of Burnett's salary. One figures that, if the Pirates get within striking distance, that will probably be enough.
If this trade happens -- and it definitely looks like, in time, A.J. Burnett will go to the Pirates for a pair of middling prospects -- a common response will probably be "How did the Yankees convince someone to take A.J. Burnett? Baseball is so rigged." Or something like that. I don't know. I just made that up. There's an argument to be made that Burnett is not as bad as he's looked. The last two years, he's posted about the same ERA as John Lackey. That isn't the argument. The last two years, he's posted about the same FIP as Wade Davis. That isn't the argument, either. The last two years, he's posted about the same xFIP as Clayton Richard. That's the argument. Or that's basically the argument.
Burnett's stuff is intact, or nearly so. He's worth a flyer, at some price. The Pirates are negotiating that price.
Recently, there were reports that the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates had discussed a trade involving A.J. Burnett, but that the Pirates had zero interest in dealing Garrett Jones in exchange. So that's the end of it, right? Of course not. Do not underestimate the magnitude of the Yankees' desire to rid themselves of A.J. Burnett.
According to Jon Heyman, there might be a deal yet:
The Yankees and Pirates are continuing to talk about a possible A.J. Burnett trade that could lead to more activity in the form of a couple free-agent signings by the Yankees. As of Thursday night, the teams were thought to be a few million apart in the Burnett negotiations, but they were still talking and there is some hope for a deal.
More than Jones, what the Yankees are most interested in is ditching Burnett and clearing a little bit of salary. Not all of it - nobody's going to assume the $33 million remaining on Burnett's contract - but the Yankees could conceivably eat a lot of that and clear the remainder. By doing that, they could afford to sign one of the current free-agent lefty-DH candidates, which is a really unfamiliar sentence. That last sentence was about the Yankees.
If Heyman's report is to be believed, the Pirates haven't yet agreed to pay enough of Burnett's contract to make a deal happen. No deal is guaranteed. A deal is very possible. And given that there's statistical reason to believe that Burnett's recent ERAs are unsustainable, one might even say that a deal is very probable. (One might be wrong in saying that.)
The latest rumor has A.J. Burnett perhaps going to Pittsburgh for Garrett Jones. Which makes sense for the Yankees, who are looking for a lefty bat. But why would the Pirates want Burnett?
The Pittsburgh Pirates would like to add a starting pitcher with sharp stuff, but they've been turned down by Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt. The New York Yankees would like to move A.J. Burnett and however much of his salary is possible. Sound like a fit?
Well, it doesn't not sound like a fit. But according to Buster Olney, it's not a great fit:
Garrett Jones is, in fact, the guy NYY want in any Burnett deal with the Pirates,but PIT not interested in moving Jones. No traction so far.
Burnett's due $16.5 million each of the next two years. The Yankees would have to eat a lot of that in any trade. Burnett has captured the Pirates' interest, but evidently they don't want to add a little salary and lose Garrett Jones. Jones is 30 years old and his career numbers are unspectacular, but he has his uses, and the Pirates would prefer to hang on to him.
The Yankees like Jones because he could be their lefty DH partner with Andruw Jones. The last two seasons, Burnett has an 84 ERA+, albeit with 318 strikeouts in 377 innings.