The Yankees are, apparently, on the verge of trading A.J. Burnett to the Pirates for nothing, while eating a ton of money in the process, $19-23M according to this report. Many in the Yankee Universe are pretty pumped about the prospect of Burnett, however involuntarily, shedding his pinstripes to join Pittsburgh. After all, for most of 2010 and 2011, he was hot garbage on a pitching mound and it was painful to watch him work. Looking at the 2012 Yankee roster, there doesn’t seem to be a fit for him. There are five starters and all of them are better than Burnett. There are also options he’d be buried behind in the bullpen. Most of the signs point to trading Burnett as the right move. There’s a lot inside me, though, that’s saying, “Maybe not.”
While I’ve pretty much unequivocally said that Burnett should not be the fifth starter this year and that he doesn’t fit in the bullpen (even if his stuff does), I’m not sure if trading him is quite worth it. I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to eat that much money on the contract, you may as well stick it out with the guy, see what else he can give you. That’s just one side of it. Of course you have to look at what the money’s being freed up for. In this case, it’s a left-handed hitting designated hitter who’s either going to be Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez, or Hideki Matusi. The Yankees also seem to want to re-sign Eric Chavez as the last bench infielder, which does make sense. Right now, with Burnett on the payroll, they can only sign one of those things, and I assume it’d be the former. If they need to move (some of) Burnett’s money to accomplish signing the latter, is that really worth it? I’m not so sure.
If Eric Chavez is signed, he’d probably have a relatively regular role in relieving Alex Rodriguez at third base, but given his injury history and his lack of production over the last few years, is he really worth it? Would he really be more valuable than Burnett on the roster? Burnett may not be first (or second…or third…) out of the bullpen, but he could make an impact there and, as always, pitchers will get hurt. I think I’d prefer to just keep the pitching depth.
Of course, I won’t exactly be crying if Burnett is traded to the Pirates (or anyone else). The Yankees do have sufficient depth at pitching and it would be nice to free up some cash and be rid of the sometimes-maddening Burnett, but for whatever reason–maybe it’s because I like A.J. and think he’s a good guy and a great teammate–I can’t fully get on board with the idea of trading him.
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