Joel Sherman had an interesting tidbit in his column this morning. Here it is:
Owner Hal Steinbrenner already has expanded his budget once this offseason to allow the signing of Hiroki Kuroda. He has yet to say the Yankees can do so again in order to sign even one additional player, much less two. This is why the Yankees are quietly — but diligently — still working to trade A.J. Burnett.
They know no team will take all of Burnett’s remaining two years at $33 million. But if they could save, say, $4 million this year and next year, it would provide some wiggle room to finish off their roster heading into spring training.
That quote in bold caught my attention, knowing a thing or two about how these things often work. It’s phrased as something of a hypothetical, so at first glance it would seem premature to take this as anything other than his own musings. But I doubt a good reporter like Sherman would invent those numbers without clarifying that as his own personal speculation. Common sense will tell you the person talking to Sherman wont want to negotiate the deal through the press, so the source in all likelihood is letting Joel know what he’s thinking, and left it up to him to rephrase the information in such a way where the Yanks don’t come across as desperate to move Burnett at any cost. But now I’m reading tea leaves. What made this worth posting was that Sherman was far more definitive in an interview later today on the Michael Kay show. Here’s the clip (fast forward to 33:50 minute mark) where he said this:
“What they’re hoping to do is find someplace to deposit AJ Burnett. Now they know they’re going to have to eat about 75% of the two years at 33M left. If they could get someone to eat 4-5M per year of that, they could then turn around and have their cake and eat it too and do Chavez and then take their choice of who they want the most of Damon, Matsui, Ibanez.”
So there you have it. He went on to say that while Hal Steinbrenner may not love the idea, it could be sold as an addition by subtraction in opening up AJs spot to a better starter, as well as taking the savings and adding two needed pieces acting as somewhat of a trade. This goes far beyond the previous report from George King on December 7th that they were willing to absorb around 8M to get a deal done. It would appear there were (unsurprisingly) no bites when that offer made the rounds, so we will have to see if anyone takes the bait now. Circumstances have changed greatly from mid December. Most of the FA pitchers with any ability are all off the board, so if a team has a need in their rotation this will be one option to consider if they have some room in their budget.
Here’s the fundamental question. If AJ was a free agent right now, would he get 2 years at 8M? It’s hard to say. He’s performed badly, but a NL team might think his remaining upside is worth the risk at that price. There are teams out there that need pitching and can’t give their money away. The Pirates have long had difficulty luring even middling free agents to play for their club, and reportedly offered Edwin Jackson a 3 year/30M deal, but he chose to sign a 1 year deal with the Nats because he didn’t want to play in Pittsburgh. Tim Dierkes of MLBTR thinks the Pirates, White Sox, Orioles and A’s all make sense to varying degrees. He also noted that the Yanks and Pirates have discussed Burnett, but the talks never got serious. It is worth noting that the Pirates are not one of the teams on AJ Burnett’s no trade clause.
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