|Pirates Give Burnett a Fresh Start||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on February 28, 2012
After about two weeks of trade proposals, A.J. Burnett is a Pittsburgh Pirate.
The New York Yankees shipped the erratic right-hander to Pittsburgh for two low-level prospects: pitcher Diego Moreno and outfielder Exicardo Cayones. New York also sent $18.9 million of the $31.9 million Burnett is owed over the next two seasons. (It had already paid him $1.1 million this season.)
Burnett signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Bronx Bombers prior to the 2009 season. He was coming off a year in which he won 18 games for the Toronto Blue Jays and led the American League with 34 starts and 231 strikeouts.
The next two seasons, Burnett went a combined 21-26 with a 5.00-plus ERA each season. For the amount of money he was making, his performance fell well short of the Yankees' expectations.
At the start of this offseason, the Yankees main goal was to address their starting pitching. However, the team remained quiet the first few months, which made it seem like Burnett would still be in the rotation.
When a player makes that much money and underperforms significantly, the team often gives that player an inordinate number of chances to succeed based on the investment they have made. Burnett was given his chance, but he did not meet the Yankees' standards of excellence.
In mid-January, the Yankees made it quite clear what their plans were for Burnett. The team acquired electric young righty Michael Pineda from the Seattle Mariners and signed free agent starter Hiroki Kuroda within a matter of hours.
With C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia already in house, the Yankees turned a weakness into a potential strength. But it left no spot for Burnett.
The Pirates were the first ones to bite when the Yankees dangled the Burnett on the market. Assuming the Yankees would pay the bulk of Burnett's salary (which they eventually agreed to do), Pittsburgh felt it could benefit from bringing in the veteran starter.
A fresh start may be just what Burnett needs. He saw a 2-mph decrease in his velocity from the time he originally signed with the Yankees. He also claimed the Yankee coaches toyed too much with his mechanics, causing him to lose confidence -- even during an individual at-bat.
Burnett played parts of seven years in the National League for the Florida Marlins before signing with the Blue Jays. He'll join Erik Bedard, Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens and either James McDonald or Charlie Morton in the Pirates' rotation.
Pittsburgh certainly has an up-and-coming bullpen featuring flame-throwing closer Joel Hanrahan as well as solid relievers Jason Grilli, Evan Meek and Chris Resop. So if Burnett can get through six innings, he could have a chance to rack some wins if his bullpen protects the lead.
Baseball is a "what have you done for me lately?" sport. Despite his lucrative contract, the Yankees were fed up with Burnett. His signing is likely to be remembered as one of the worst in team history.