A.J. Burnett's Yankee Career Is Coming to a Close

Deal with Pirates for disappointing pitcher is close

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, Feb 14, 2012  |  Updated 8:14 AM EDT
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The 2009 title will wind up overshadowing everything else.

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It looks like A.J. Burnett is going to be Pittsburgh's problem.

The Yankees and Pirates are reportedly close on a deal that would send Burnett (and a diminished portion of his salary) to Steel City in exchange for a couple of prospects.

The hangups at this point are the amount of money that Pittsburgh will kick in to pay the $33 million left on Burnett's deal and the quality of the prospects that the Yankees will get back.

According to Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger, the Yankees want the Pirates to pay more than the $10 million currently on the table and they aren't thrilled with the players currently slated to head their way. Carig's sources still feel like a deal will get done before the start of Spring Training, though. 

That makes sense since the Yankees have absolutely no place to put Burnett if they keep him on the roster.

The additions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda leave the Yankees with seven starters, the Yankees can do better than Burnett when it comes to long relief and there's enough minor league depth to feel confident that any needs can be filled just fine without keeping Burnett on the roster.

Brian Cashman can threaten to pull the deal all he wants, but Burnett needs to go as long as the Yankees tie the acquisition of Eric Chavez and, perhaps, another lefty DH option to a need to clear salary space.

The money is sunk on Burnett whether it is $33 million, $23 million or $18 million, so, at some point, the Yankees will take what they can get and then move on to issues that will actually impact their chances of winning this season.

Burnett's tenure is never going to be viewed warmly by Yankee fans, but it bears mentioning that the Yankees don't win the title in 2009 without Burnett's contributions. Going with a three-man rotation in October meant relying heavily on Burnett and his performance in Game Two of the World Series was particularly significant after Cliff Lee beat CC Sabathia in the opener.

Things would never be that good again, but you have to ask just what you were expecting out of the deal. Everyone knew that the day would come when Burnett's five-year, $82.5 million deal would be an anchor but he only got it because the Yankees were desperate to win a World Series.

It became one a bit quicker than anticipated, but that was actually a good thing. It is hard to imagine you'll see Cashman hand out another long-term deal to a free agent pitcher in his mid-30's from another team.

That important bit of knowledge and a World Series ring are pretty good takeaways from the A.J. Burnett Era.

As for the Pirates, it is easy to make a joke that they must not be able to afford scouts or the MLB package on the iPad if they are willing to bring Burnett to town, but it is simply the flip side of the economic reality that allows the Yankees to shrug their shoulders and pay Burnett $20 million to play for someone else.

The Pirates don't have the financial ability to pay a top-tier free agent so they have to be a bit more creative about getting players.

Betting a few million that moving to the National League and out of New York helps Burnett rediscover some of his mojo is the best that they can do under their circumstances. That's something Yankee fans might want to keep in mind the next time they scream about A-Rod's salary. 

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter

 

and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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