With reports that an AJ Burnett-to-Pittsburg trade may be on the rocks, some in the baseball media have begun speculating as to other potential suitors for the Yankees’ right-hander. The list isn’t long and varies by source. Of course, Brian Cashman could be hoping for a #mysteryteam to jump into the fray and offer to take the majority of Burnett’s two year, 33 million dollars off his hands. But that’s not likely to happen and one such team mentioned heavily has been the Los Angeles Angels. As Ken Rosenthal tweeted yesterday:
If the Yankees and Angels could clear these barriers and if a deal with Pittsburgh cannot be reached the Angels could be a fit. The Pirates would like to buy AJ Burnett like a value-investor buys a stock – putting money into AJ Burnett because they believe he is undervalued, due for a rebound, and will be easy to flip at some point in the future. The Angels, on the other hand, have a legitimate need for Burnett at the major league level. Despite one of the strongest rotations in baseball one through four, Los Angeles has no obvious choice for the five-spot. They also have several assets that could be of some interest to the Yankees – most notably, former Yankee Bobby Abreu.
At 37, going on 38, Abreu is a shell of the player the Yankees acquired back in 2006. Then a good bet to hit .300 with 20 homers and 30 steals, Abreu’s speed is all but gone. His power had held steady until last season, when his isolated power fell to .130, and he is no longer a batting average threat. Nevertheless, most of Abreu’s present value comes from his above-average on base percentage and moderate power. What makes the right fielder turned DH a potential fit for this team is his handedness and splits.
With Andruw Jones ready to DH against left-handers the top priority has become a lefty to complete the platoon. Abreu could very well be that lefty. Not only did he hit all eight of his home runs against righties last season, he also hit .259 with a .366 OBP and .400 SLG. Not elite production, but certainly better than any lefty DH option available as of now.
The question is then one of money. Bobby Abreu is signed through 2012 at a cost of nine million dollars. At this price he likely provides no value and with teams potentially willing to take some of AJ Burnett’s salary off of our hands it would make little sense to bring Abreu on board unless we could also save some money in the process. Trading AJ Burnett and for Bobby Abreu and covering the salary difference simply wont cut it. A trade that sent AJ Burnett to Los Angeles along with approximately $15 million for Bobby Abreu could make some sense. The Yankees would be saving nine million dollars and trading from strength to fill weakness.
As Rosenthal suggests, there is at least one major non-baseball hurdle to be jumped before any deal can be completed. AJ Burnett lives on the East Coast and would strongly prefer to stay on or near the East Coast. He has a partial no-trade-claus which would allow him to veto a deal to the Angels. If he doesn’t want to move out west, all he has to do is say so and the Yankees must explore other options.
That being said, there is reason to believe that AJ Burnett may be willing to waive his no-trade-claus. After the disaster that has been his past two years in pinstripes, Burnett’s value is highly deflated. If he wants to salvage his career he’s going to need an opportunity to prove himself as a starting pitcher. That opportunity does not seem present in New York. It is present in Los Angeles. Yes, other suitors may exist, but does AJ Burnett want to spend the next five months in Pittsburgh, only to be traded at the deadline for a pair of prospects? We cannot know for sure whether he’d be willing to accept a trade to the Angels. If he would, a trade may be constructed that would benefit all involved.
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