Saturday, February 11 – 2:36 PM
Leave it to A.J. Burnett to create this sort of bizarro world scenario where we have the deep-pocketed Yankees haggling with the Pirates, of all teams, over a few million bucks. Remember when the Bombers could care less about payroll? Apparently, those days are over, as the Yanks are reportedly unwilling to deal the erratic righty to the Steel City unless Pittsburgh agrees to pay a considerable portion of the $33 million left on Burnett’s contract. $10 million? Not enough. $12 million? $15 million? Who knows what the Bombers will deem acceptable, but the bottom line is that the chances of A.J. reporting to spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field seem remote at best.
I’m all for this move. I think it actually benefits both sides. Burnett would get a chance to resurrect his career away from the spotlight of New York and a fan base that is quite frankly fed up with him. The Yanks, although they would at least temporarily assume the role of laughingstock of the league (five years, $82.5 million for a guy you wind up giving away?) would be able to turn the page on what was a terrible front office decision while also addressing their starting rotation logjam and freeing up some salary to use for an additional left-handed bat (Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui). It’s the kind of trade we’re not used to seeing from this club, a straight salary dump where they are the team dumping the salary. And that’s what makes it so ironic. As strange as it sounds, it looks like the Yanks do indeed have a budget. It might be two, three, or even four times as large as some other teams, but it is a budget. Maybe it’s the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that includes harsher penalties for teams that go over the luxury tax threshold. But I get the sense that it’s more about ridding themselves of the Burnett black cloud. I mean, there’s a limit to how many times Joe Girardi can say “His stuff looked great today. He just made a few bad pitches.”
Let me tell you something. In over a decade of playing fantasy baseball, I have never owned Burnett, and for good reason. Yeah, he’ll throw some gems, but the disaster outings are just too ugly. The walks, hit batters, wild pitches, I can’t take it. Now, I’m not promising anything here, but while in past years there was a 0% chance I’d draft Burnett, even as a last round pick, if he indeed finds a new home this season, I’ll raise the odds to 5%. And let’s make it 10% if he goes to the Senior Circuit. In an NL-only league? 20%. After all, as the great Yogi Berra once said, “90% of the game is half-mental.”