Mood Music - The Kraken by Hans Zimmer
Perhaps it was fate that a few nights ago, right before this trade was announced, The Puffy Shirt episode of Seinfeld was on TV on....one of the many channels that shows Seinfeld re-runs. Finally though, this is a done deal. Now that A.J. has passed his physical and Bud "I hate baseball fans like I'mGivingYouARaise" Selig has approved the barter, A.J. Burnett has been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for money relief and two minor league prospects. The Yankees will pay $20 million of Burnett's remaining $33 million and in return they will receive prospects Diego Moreno, a right-handed pitcher, and Exicardo Cayonez, an outfielder. I doubt anyone was really expecting any high level prospects back for AJ, considering that the main focus for the Yankees seemed to be the salary. With this move, Cashman has opened up $13 million on the payroll which may be used to sign that elusive DH, which may or may not be Raul Ibanez. I'm sure we'll see what happens regarding that in the near future. For now, lets focus on the here and now, this trade, and what it offers both teams involved besides barrels of Captain Morgan.
Dare ye walk the plank?
It's no secret that A.J. Burnett was not really well liked in the Big Apple due to various reasons here and there, the main reason being his erratic pitching. The classic mantra of Good A.J./Bad A.J. would become a question whenever he started towards his tenure in pinstripes. Phrases like "head case" would be tossed around, reporters would look for drama between him and Girardi, and constant questions would be raised last season about him being traded. After the signing of Kuroda and the Pineda trade, the Yankees were faced with an abundance of pitching, so much so that questions were even raised if Ivan Nova would get a spot in the rotation or start in the minors. Ignoring that for a moment, for all intents and purposes three starters, A.J., Phil Hughes, and Freddy Garcia, would be competing for the #5 position and that competition would probably be a moot point due to the amount of money the Yankees pay A.J. That is, until this trade today.
Regardless of whether you agree with this trade or not, what it truly offers the Yankees is rotation flexibility like that of a Yoga master. Like I mentioned above, due to the amount of money left on A.J. Burnett's contract, he really had no other logical spot to wind up other than in the rotation. Hughes and Garcia both can be moved to the bullpen for short/long relief depending on their performance in Spring Training and who wins the now open spot in the rotation. This trade frees up both the spot in the rotation but some money as well, money that the Yankees have all but broadcasted over the loud speaker in Yankee Stadium will be used to sign a DH, and thus most likely complete this thus far impressive offseason for Brian Cashman and the Yankees. One has to wonder if Cashman had this all planned out from the very beginning of the offseason, or at least when they re-signed Freddy Garcia. With all these plans within plans, in all honesty this offseason seems like Cashman Inception'd us all with his wheeling and dealing. BWONG!
Meanwhile, Buctown is getting two years of A.J. Burnett for two very minor prospects and only paying $13-$14 million for him, which if you ask me is a pretty good deal. While A.J. may be erratic at times, he is entering a weaker division in the NL Central. Instead of competing against teams like the Red Sox, the Rays, and the BJ's, he'll be facing the now Pujols-less World Series Champion Cardinals, the Fielder-less Brewers, and the soon to be NL-less Astros. If you actually believe the "New York Pressure" thing, then moving to the Pirates should completely relieve that and he could pitch very well for them. For any Pirates fans reading this, without getting into the stats which my fellow PSA writers can do a whole lot better than I can, A.J. Burnett can offer a lot. When A.J.'s stuff is working, he's downright incredible. The problem is he can sometimes have a bad inning here or there that throws off his mechanics, so the NL Double Switch may come in handy with AJ for some games. The good news is that A.J. tends to start off the season strong, so do your best to build up an early lead in the standings, then hold your ground like you were fighting off The Flying Dutchman.
Finally, to offer up my own opinion on the whole situation, since I intend to ask the rest of PSA what they think at the end. My opinion is that this trade works for both teams involved. The reasons I wanted A.J. Burnett off the team is because of the lack of flexibility, the question of Nova being in the rotation which should not be a question at all, and because I honestly believe Phil Hughes is going to have a comeback year and hopefully learn from past mistakes just like any other growing pitcher. Our rotation & pitching depth now seem like they are in fantastic shape for the 2012 season. Having said that, I think this deal is going to work out well for Buctown because I also feel that A.J. Burnett is going to have a comeback year as well. I actually like A.J. and I think despite the erratic pitching, a lot of fans did as well and it was the amount we were paying him that was the real problem. I doubt any Yankees fan will forget his performance in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series, or the fact that he brought Pie to the walk off victories. I've actually seen the man in the clubhouse in person in 2009 and he was a very fun, nice individual.
I wish A.J. Burnett nothing but the best in Pittsburgh. I hope he helps the Pirates hoist the colors and lead them to victory. I hope he gets along well with the "Pirate Parrot," which I'm sure he will. And I hope this trade ultimately works out for both teams involved. To both Yankees fans & Pirates fans, drink up me hearties, YO HO!
So what do you think of this trade, Pinstripe Alley?