Five-years and $82.5 million for A.J. Burnett.
“The success or failure of this offseason,” Brain Cashman said, “will be determined on how I fill two spots in the rotation.”
Gotcha. That was Brian Cashman back on November 15, 2004 after the Yankees got their fanny kicked in the ALCS. Betcha thought that was a recent comment, huh?
And, what did Cashman do after he said that in November 2004? On December 20, 2004, he signed Carl Pavano as a free agent. And, on January 11, 2005, he traded Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro, and cash to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson. At the time, Johnson was a big lefty coming off a 50 RSAA season and Pavano was coming off an 18-win year where he pitched the most innings ever (222.1) in his career (over one season).
Let’s hope that the newly acquired CC Sabathia (a big lefty) and A.J. Burnett (coming off a season where he pitched the most innings ever, 221.1, in his life) don’t turn into the second coming of Johnson and Pavano in Yankeeland. (Yeah, I know, Sabathia is a lot younger than Johnson was when the Yankees picked up the Big Unit. So, that should help.)
What do the Yankees see in A.J. Burnett? Well, they see “stuff.” That’s what everyone says when they talk about Burnett. He’s nasty, filthy…yadda yadda. And, he is – really. But, there are lots of guys with filthy “stuff” who are not consistent winners in the big leagues.
How about some stats? Well, check these out – since 2004 (for both pitchers) with ERAvLge being ERA vs. the League Average:
Pitcher RSAA GS IP ERAvLge Josh Beckett 55 145 915.0 0.49 A.J. Burnett 47 131 851.2 0.60
And, I’m sure the Yankees know these stats – and they may just try and say Burnett is as good as Beckett. But, there’s one problem there. Having 47 to 55 RSAA from 2004 through 2008 is not very impressive. In fact, 35 other pitchers in the majors leagues had more than 55 RSAA since 2004. Yeah, the Yankees are now going to pay a guy $16.5 million a year, for the next five, and he has not been one of the 35 best pitchers in the majors over the last five years. Like I said: Wow.
Oh, and, yes, let’s not forget about the back of A.J. Burnett’s bubble gum card. It shows that he’s played in parts of 10 big league seasons. Know how many times in those 10 years that he’s made 30+ starts in a season? Just twice – both is his “walk” years (2005 and 2008).
Man, I dunno. Is it me, or, does this deal start to look a little crazy?
Sure, I could see A.J. Burnett giving the Yankees 27 starts and 170 IP next season – and winning a dozen games. And, the Yankees could use that type of production from someone in their rotation. And, you never know…because of his “stuff,” Burnett – if he’s healthy – could get hot one October and be (for the Yankees) what Josh Beckett was for the Red Sox back in 2007. And, maybe, signing someone like Burnett makes more sense than signing someone like Derek Lowe…maybe…because of Lowe’s age. Maybe…
Then again, maybe this will be like when the Blue Jays let Kelvim Escobar leave as a free agent after the 2003 season…and then he signed with the Angels and now he’s been an ace for the last two years? Stranger things have happened…
What’s the motto of Zen warriors? “Expect nothing; be prepared for anything.” When it comes to A.J. Burnett’s upcoming career as a member of the New York Yankees, that might be the best approach for Yankees fans.