Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Burnett trade smart for both Yankees and Pirates

Few would argue that the A.J. Burnett experiment in New York has largely been a major disappointment. During his three seasons toeing the rubber in the Bronx, Burnett posted a 34-35 record, with a 4.79 ERA. Of particular concern has been his inability to throw strikes, as he totaled 258 walks and 38 hit batters in 584 innings over the past three seasons. According to various reports, the Yankees will eat almost 1/3 of the $33 million remaining on Burnett's contract, while receiving minor leaguers RHP Diego Moreno and OF Exicardo Cayones.
While there's no doubt he didn't live up to his 5-year, $80+ million deal, he also had some very big moments in the postseason for New York. Burnett was an important part of the Yankees' 27th World Series championship, scattering a run on four hits in seven strong innings against a potent Phillies lineup, evening the series at one apiece. Burnett also got the win in Game Four of the teams' divisional series against the Detroit Tigers, allowing just one run in 5.2 innings, bringing the series back to New York for its decisive Game Five (which Detroit ended up winning).
The good news for Pirates fans is that Burnett still has a fairly live arm, and his pitching stats were skewed (at least somewhat) by both the batter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, as well as the potent offenses in the American League East. Moving to a much more friendly PNC Park will help Burnett's ERA, as will being away from the spotlight playing for a team that hasn't reached the postseason since 1992. If pitching coach Ray Searage can get Burnett's sketchy mechanics in order, its very possible that Burnett can have numbers that approach his career average of a 4.10 ERA.

Yankees' Grade: C. Despite having to eat between $18-$20 million on the contract, GM Brian Cashman was able to find a team that was willing to take a player that more than likely wouldn't have been in the rotation. While the two prospects they received (Moreno and Cayones), the relief they get from moving Burnett's contract will allow them to likely re-sign backup Eric Chavez, as well as find a designated hitter (probably Raul Ibanez). The grade is lower because of the fact that Burnett didn't nearly perform to the level his big contract should have dictated.
Pirates Grade: B+. Burnett's struggles in New York have been well-chronicled, but the Pirates will be paying him approximately $6 million per season through 2013, which isn't a bad price for a pitcher moving to a friendlier location facing more pitcher-friendly lineups in the NL Central. Its a fairly low-risk, high-reward deal.

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