Possible Fits For A.J. Burnett

1:40pm: The Pirates have spoken to the Yankees about Burnett, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, "though those conversations failed to progress and perhaps qualified only as due diligence."  Rosenthal says that Burnett hopes to stay with the Yankees, but notes that the Pirates are not on his no-trade list.

8:05am: Righty A.J. Burnett has provided innings for the Yankees over the last two years, 377 in the regular season to be exact.  His peripheral stats suggest a brighter future, but Burnett posted a 5.20 ERA over 2010-11.  How does the free agent market deal with starting pitchers who provide innings and good stuff but lack the hoped-for results?

The free agent market just valued Edwin Jackson at $11MM for one year, but his ERA over the last two years is a full run lower than Burnett's, and with 32 additional regular season innings.  He does seem to have Burnett's reputation of good stuff without the results to match, though Jackson is significantly younger.  Had Jackson set out to find the best two-year offer possible, perhaps he could have gotten $20MM.  A year ago, Carl Pavano signed for two years and $16.5MM, and he too was coming off a better two-year performance than Burnett.  Pavano, however, lacks the upside of Burnett or Jackson.  The bottom line is that as a free agent, I think Burnett might find $12MM if he were set on a two-year deal.

Word from Joel Sherman of the New York Post is that the Yankees are "quietly — but diligently — still working to trade" Burnett to create additonal payroll flexibility for both Eric Chavez and one of Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, or Raul Ibanez.  GM Brian Cashman lacks leverage, as Burnett hasn't pitched well over the last two seasons and will be battling this spring to crack the Yankees' rotation.  So if Burnett's free agent value is around $12MM over two years, Cashman might have to let a team take him for $8-10MM over that span.  That could be the possible savings for the Yankees against the $33MM owed to the 35-year-old.

Possible fits for Burnett:

  • Pirates: The Pirates can't seem to convince free agent starters to take their money, and Burnett could reject them as well if they are one of ten teams covered in his limited no-trade clause.   Still, they'd represent a fresh start back in the easier league, and Burnett could be a big fish in a small pond.
  • White Sox: If the White Sox add Burnett, they'd have the rotation depth to trade Gavin Floyd for prospects without decimating their rotation.
  • Orioles: Their rotation has plenty of options, but without Jeremy Guthrie, the veteran role falls to Jason Hammel.  Burnett's wife is famously a Maryland resident, as we learned from past trade rumors and his free agency process.  Burnett could work for the Orioles, but only if they found some payroll flexibility, had the desire to add yet another rotation candidate, and Cashman was willing to trade within the division.
  • Athletics: When Bartolo Colon is your innings guy, a little more veteran depth wouldn't hurt.

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