• Commentary On Reported A.J. Burnett Deal

    Posted by on December 12th, 2008 · Comments (16)

    Five-years and $82.5 million for A.J. Burnett.

    Wow.

    “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.

    Wow.

    Comments on Commentary On Reported A.J. Burnett Deal

    1. asdf
      December 12th, 2008 | 11:00 pm

      Posted this in another thread, but oh well.

      Fangraphs:


      Kudos to Dave for nailing the years/money here, A.J. Burnett is a 3 WAR starter, and he’s being paid as one. This is a buyers market, and the Yankees are absolutely thriving in it. A lot can be said for spending money and a lot more should be said for Brian Cashman and the Yankees paying these free agents exactly what they’re worth. Of course, the Yankees are one of the few teams who can pay what they’re worth, but that might be a market inefficiency within itself.”

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/aj-burnett-to-the-yankees

    2. AndrewYF
      December 12th, 2008 | 11:03 pm

      Other than their age, Burnett is very comparable to Beckett…in terms of innings pitched, and pure stuff.

      That said, I consider Beckett to be extremely overrated.

      That said again, the Yankees aren’t relying on Burnett to be their ace. I view him as the ‘kicker’ from the #3 spot in the rotation.

    3. yankees27th
      December 12th, 2008 | 11:21 pm

      I would say CC, Wang, and Joba are all better than AJ. Whatever you think his numbers will be, they should be pretty good for a #4 starter (although he’ll probably pitch our third game just because we have to limit Joba’s innings).

    4. AndrewYF
      December 12th, 2008 | 11:58 pm

      I’ve been slotting Joba into the #5 slot, because he’ll only be able to pitch as many innings as a #5 guy usually does.

      That doesn’t mean he can’t pitch like a #1 or #2.

    5. sanair
      December 13th, 2008 | 12:25 am

      Of course, you’d be happy with rotation of Wang, Gil Meche, Pettitte, Jon Garland and Chamberlain running around in General Joe t-shirts, right?

      Sabathia +Burnett vs. Garland and Meche. HA.

      You’re not going to live down that post for a long, long while 🙂

    6. Pat F
      December 13th, 2008 | 1:48 am

      “it’s cashman 101: can’t come up with pitchers: so, find hitters.”

      like them or not, these are pitchers! and they aren’t some sort of second tier back-up plan, or whatever steve was prematurely criticizng cashman for.

      i agree with andrewyf. burnett is kind of like a kicker in the 3/4 slot. i would’t be thrilled relying on him as a 1/2 guy, but behind two innings eaters like cc and wang, and alongside joba, he could be a scary guy. he’s averaged 27 starts per across the last 4 years, and if he gives us that (or even a little less) we can fill those starts. when he pitches, he’ll be giving us a lot more than most 3/4 starters can. and that’s big.

    7. December 13th, 2008 | 2:26 am

      I’m holding my breath too, but who was going to be the better fit out of who was left? Lowe? Sheets? Meh.

    8. dpk875
      December 13th, 2008 | 6:32 am

      Are the Yanks still looking at Peavy? It seems like everyone else is getting ruled out over the last few weeks.

    9. December 13th, 2008 | 8:10 am

      sanair – if you want to be a hump, that’s fine, but, please quote me in context while you try and be a hump…

      http://waswatching.com/2008/12/01/cashman-balls-in-ccs-court/

      I said that I would be happy with a rotation of Wang, Gil Meche, Pettitte, Jon Garland and Chamberlain rather than waiting all off-season on CC and then losing out on other pitchers. I never said that I would prefer that over a rotation with CC and AJ.

    10. December 13th, 2008 | 8:12 am

      ~~~“it’s cashman 101: can’t come up with pitchers: so, find hitters.” like them or not, these are pitchers! ~~~

      CC, yes. AJ? Well, we’ll see what kind of pitcher he is…and if he’s worth $82 million.

    11. butchie22
      December 13th, 2008 | 10:08 am

      Steve, that fact about him going all the way in walk years tells alot about him. Beckett and AJ? I’d rather have Beckett, he’s one of the greatest postseason pitchers(with the exception of this year but did decently against Tampa his last time out)of all time. Burnett wasn’t even healthy enough to pitch in 2003 when Pavano and Beckett busted it up in the playoffs.

      In essence, a lot of money and five years(I still can’t believe they were stupid enough to give him 5 years) for a guy that has a 10 cent head and nillion dollar stuff. I would be shocked if he doesn’t land on the DL in the first half of the season. AJerk is someone who is both physically and emotionally fragile. There were only two teams going after AJerk and the Yanks were just dumb enough to pay this guy megabucks with mega years. This will be another lost season. If that happens then thankfully Cash Man (and unfortunately) Girardi will be gone.

      What is ironic is that they couldn’t hit last year so they go out and get the second coming of Pavano and Chuck Finley(another Yankee Killer). I give Omar some credit over Cash Man. They needed to remake their bullpen BECAUSE the bullpen blew something like 27 games last year. Now he is making the right adjustments BEFORE going for a hitter. Cash Man (the moron that he is) goes after pitching when their clutch hitting sucked last year!?!?!! AND they lost Giambi AND Abreu’s production! I can’t wait to see Adam Dumb the clutchless in pinstripes when Teix and Manny are elsewhere. Good luck, Cash Man third place is looking better all the time……..

    12. sanair
      December 13th, 2008 | 1:23 pm

      @Steve — Per the previous thread: “At this point, I’d be happy with a rotation of Wang, Gil Meche, Pettitte, Jon Garland and Chamberlain – with Hughes and Aceves in the wings. Is that ideal? No, but, it’s better than going with Wang, Chamberlain and who knows, right? And, then, if someone like Sabathia or Derek Lowe is still around, and falls into your lap, then you sign them and have Chamberlain start the season in the pen (until one of the starters goes down). Make sense?”

      So, can we put this down on your scorecard? If Lombardi were GM he would have traded for a starter like Meche, signed Garland, and hoped CC would fall into his lap, because Lombardi is extraordinary risk averse and believed CC was playing the Yankees? Because if we can, that undermines any arguments you have against Cashman.

      If we can’t, please explain your own exceptionalism.

    13. Corey
      December 13th, 2008 | 2:45 pm

      So, can we put this down on your scorecard? If Lombardi were GM he would have traded for a starter like Meche, signed Garland, and hoped CC would fall into his lap, because Lombardi is extraordinary risk averse and believed CC was playing the Yankees? Because if we can, that undermines any arguments you have against Cashman.
      ======
      i’d also imagine Steve would have a lot more knowledge of the situation than he does currently, and maybe he would have waited the same. We don’t know what Cashman knows, we’re just speculating.

      I dunno, I don’t mind Burnett as much. Personally I think I’d take Burnett over Beckett…Maybe I’ve just seen him get slaughtered my the Yanks too often…

    14. sanair
      December 13th, 2008 | 2:52 pm

      @Corey — “i’d also imagine Steve would have a lot more knowledge of the situation than he does currently, and maybe he would have waited the same. We don’t know what Cashman knows, we’re just speculating.”

      How can one purport to judge Cashman on any move he makes or action he takes when one never possesses as much knowledge as he does? What if tomorrow it came out that in 2004 Pavano was unwilling to sign with anyone else for less than $13 mil/5 yrs, but Cashman talked him into a NY discount? That would significantly alter any sort of assessment regarding that move, no?

      The pajama bloggers can’t have it both ways.

    15. Corey
      December 13th, 2008 | 3:13 pm

      exactly, like i said we’re just speculating…

    16. Don
      December 13th, 2008 | 3:28 pm

      Lowe in the AL East would be a disaster. I guess you could say he wouldn’t be likely to miss many starts, but he would sure be ugly.This isn’t the NL West.

      Angels reportedly offer Tex 8/160.

      Cashman should offer Tex 7/175.

      After the 2010 season, let Jeter walk.

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