(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)
Let’s not waste time trying to sugarcoat it. A.J. Burnett‘s Yankee career has been an absolute disaster. It’s been dismal. A.J. has become the latest in the long line of failed Yankee high-profile free agent pitching signings and made himself the newest poster boy for the “He Can’t Hack It in New York” argument that people love to use when guys fail in pinstripes. And with the recent NY Post report that the Yankees are actively shopping A.J. this week at the Winter Meetings and are willing to eat some of his remaining salary to sweeten the deal, the Yankees are now in a position where they basically HAVE TO trade A.J.
Let’s review his time as a Yankee quickly. In 2009, A.J. was mediocre in his first full season in The Bronx. He was more bad than good, and did not show the consistent results and dominance he had shown the previous year. In the end, though, A.J. was a part of a World Series-winning staff and even contributed to that title with a solid Game 2 outing in the World Series. In 2010, A.J. nose dived off the productivity ladder, putting up one of the all-time worst individual pitching seasons in Yankee history and almost being left off the postseason roster . And this past season, the downward spiral continued as A.J. put up comparably bad numbers to 2010, lost his spot in the rotation, and once again found himself the centerpiece of the Yankee playoff rotation as they tried to figure out a way where they did not have to use him.
More maddening than the poor performance, at least for me, has been all the baggage and BS that’s come with the last three years of A.J. The bouts of inexplicable inconsistency, the failure against the Fraud Sawx, the constantly-changing mechanics, the personal catchers, the inability to be objective about his own performance, the different haircuts, the black eye, the arguing with his manager on the mound and cursing him out after being taken out a game in which he was pitching poorly, the 6-man rotation, and the constant efforts by everybody in the organization (teammates, Joe, Cash, Levine) to take turns playing CYA for him along the way.
And now after all of this, the Yankees are out at the Winter Meetings trying to do the baseball equivalent of giving A.J. away, and that’s supposed to help him pitch better in 2012? Not on your life. This story, which appears to be true, represents the Yankees finally admitting that they don’t have confidence in A.J. and don’t want him anymore. And when they’ve spent the past 3 seasons trying to convince the media, the fans, A.J., and probably even themselves that they did and it hasn’t gotten them anything from A.J., why would throwing up their hands and saying, “We’ve had enough of this clown. Somebody PLEASE take him!” work any better? The guy couldn’t pitch worth a damn when he had support from the team. He’ll barely be able to function on the mound now knowing that he doesn’t, and the team can no longer step up and try to cover for him after this move. This has to be the end of A.J.’s Yankee career.
By outing themselves for their lack of support, the Yankees have effectively killed any chances they had of getting something positive from A.J. over the next 2 years. After making these offers, there’s no way the Yankees can bring him back and expect anything from him. He’s a wasted roster spot. And the $33 million they still owe him has now gone from being an opportunity cost to essentially a sunk cost for the Yankees. The majority of the contract is a sunk cost already, so if it’s about money you’re really just putting a lipstick on a pig at this point. This isn’t the NFL where they can cut him and not have to pay him. One way or another, A.J. is getting his $33 million that’s still owed to him and the Yankees are going to at least pay some of it. With the contract that Mark Buehrle signed today with Miami, all of the guys the Yankees could target are going to want more than the Yankees are going to be willing to offer. By admitting A.J. was a mistake and moving him, for anything, the Yankees will pass some of the cost off to somebody else, and give themselves a bit more payroll flexibility to use in the trade market that they seem more involved in anyway.
They’d still be left with CC, Nova, Freddy, a Phil Hughes that they’re expecting a big rebound from, and a Hector Noesi that’s been turning heads in the DR. Put that together with the bodies in Triple-A and some potential top-of-the-rotation trade targets, and it’s not like the Yankees would be up the creek without A.J. Sure they’re going to end up losers in whatever trade they make for him, assuming any trade gets made. But when the message the Yankees are sending as an organization right now are that they’ve given up on A.J., then they’ve already lost. And in this case, it’d be better for both sides to just cut the losses and move on.
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