The struggles of New York Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett have been well-documented since he signed a five-year/ $82.5 million deal with the Bombers in December 2008.
In 98 starts over three seasons with the Yankees, Burnett has compiled a 34-35 record with a 4.79 ERA and 1.447 WHIP, with a 7.9 K/9 ratio.
According to Bucs Dugout, the Pittsburgh Pirates at one point expressed interest in acquiring the right hander. Burnett is far from the ace he was for years in Florida and Toronto, but is also far from a player the Pirates couldn’t use.
Burnett has thrown over 186 innings in each of the last four seasons, eclipsing the 200 mark in two of them. Even after turning 35 yesterday, Burnett is a durable arm. The Pirates didn’t have a single pitcher reach 186 IP in 2011 or 2010, and an inning-eating arm is always welcome on this staff.
The velocity on his pitches is undoubtedly declining and will continue to do so as he ages, but his xFIP was over a whole run better than his 5.15 ERA last season, meaning he’s not as bad as he looks. A move from the ridiculously talented AL East to arguably the worst division in baseball (especially without Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, and a non-PED’d Ryan Braun) would also help Burnett’s numbers come down.
Given Burnett’s putrid performance in New York and his more-than-hefty contract, the asking price for Burnett would likely be minimal, if the Yankees want anything in return at all. They may be happy with a team simply taking some of Burnett’s salary off their hands.
The Pirates are by no means a big spending team, so the question then becomes how much of Burnett’s contract the Bucs are willing to pay, and how much they’d want the Yankees to keep paying. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Burnett is owed $16.5 million for the next two seasons. No player on the Pirates current roster is making half that amount, so one can be sure the Pirates won’t be willing to pay anywhere near his full salary, especially for a middle of the rotation arm.
Given the MLB’s lack of a salary cap and the fact that nobody is entirely sure how much owner Bob Nutting is willing to spend on payroll, I can’t really give an amount I’d be comfortable with the Pirates paying Burnett. Since it doesn’t seem the Pirates are going to add any more capable arms to their bullpen this offseason, I wouldn’t mind seeing the team give nothing but money for a former ace who could use a change of scenery and a change of opposition. I would mind, though, seeing the team give any semi-legitimate prospect(s) for Burnett.
At this point, though, we’re not sure if the Pirates are still interested in Burnett. The report stated that the “Pirates expressed interest at one point,” perhaps indicating there is no more interest anymore.
Finally, take a look a this tweet from Tim Williams at Pirates Prospects:
Not a bad idea.
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