Earlier today, the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired AJ Burnett from the New York Yankees for $13 million in cash and low level prospects Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones. The Yankees will also cover the other $20 million that is owed to Burnett over the final two years of his current contract.
AJ’s best years may be behind him, but I like the move. It was a good trade for both the Yankees and the Pirates. There is no loser in this deal. The trade allows the Yankees to go out and sign a DH with the money the Pirates are sending in the deal – likely Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon, or Eric Chavez. The Pirates deepen a rotation that flopped in the second half of the season last year.
The move gives the Pirates six legitimate starting pitchers in their rotation.
Here’s the Pirates rotation candidates along with their 2011 stats:
Charlie Morton 3.83 ERA, 29 GS, 171 IP, 110 K
James McDonald 4.21 ERA, 31 GS, 171 IP, 142 K
Jeff Karstens 3.38 ERA, 26 GS, 162 IP, 96 K
Kevin Correia 4.79 ERA, 26 GS, 154 IP, 77 K
Erik Bedard 3.62 ERA, 24 GS, 129 IP, 125 K
AJ Burnett 5.15 ERA, 32 GS, 190 IP, 173
So, who comes out of the rotation? Charlie Morton may not be ready for opening day, as he is coming off of a hip injury. Assuming he is ready, I think that Kevin Correia is the odd man out. Correia was a surprising All Star for the Pirates in 2011, but his season drastically changed when he was awarded a spot on the All Star team. In the first half, he was 11-7 with a 4.01 ERA, a WHIP of 1.28 and a opponents avg/slug of .270/.414. In the second half, he was 1-4 with a 7.23 ERA, a WHIP of 1.74 and an opponents avg/slug of .338/.597. He was shut down at the end of August with a strained oblique. Because of Correia’s contract, I think he would probably fill the role of a long man in the bullpen and be the go to guy if a starter went down.
Will AJ Burnett be successful in Pittsburgh? I think he will be. First, he will be out of the spotlight and will be able to focus on pitching. He also will be close to his home, a mansion in Monkton MD, which is 4.5 hours from Pittsburgh.
AJ chose Pittsburgh in part because of its proximity to his home – he even nixed a trade that would’ve sent him to the playoff likely Angels for Bobby Abreu because he didn’t want to play 100 games on the West Coast.
Secondly, AJ will face a much weaker offense division than in the AL East. I looked into AJ’s career stats against the current players of each team in the NL Central:
Brewers vs AJ: .252 BA, .325 OBP, .324 SLG, 1 HR, 111 AB
Cardinals vs AJ: .263 BA, .365 OBP, .343 SLG, 2 HR, 99 AB
Cubs vs AJ: .160 BA, .263 OBP, .230 SLG, 2 HR, 100 AB
Astros vs AJ: .375 BA, .474 OBP, .438 SLG, 0 HR, 16 AB
Reds vs AJ: .192 BA, .261 OBP, .269 SLG, 0 HR, 78 AB
Those are impressive stats. Too bad Jason Michaels has owned AJ Burnett, or the Astros stats would be lower. Since the Astros will be playing with minor league caliber players in 2012, I’m not too worried about how he fares against them.
Thirdly, AJ will pitch half of his games in PNC Park, which typically surrenders home runs at a pace near the bottom of baseball. One reason is because of the Pirates offense, but another is that its a rather large field.
So, what did the Pirates give up? Besides the cash, not much. There’s Diego Moreno, a pitcher who throws 98 MPH, but was suspended from the Pirates minor league team for unprofessional conduct for making out with a fan during a game in the bullpen.
His career line in 5 minor league seasons is 11-9, 2.41 ERA, 116 G, 194 IP, 212 K. When left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, he went ignored by the other 29 teams in the MLB.
The other prospect is Exicardo Cayones, who is basically a reincarnation of Rafael Belliard, except he plays the outfield. He has no power whatsoever.
His career line in 3 minor league seasons is .272 avg, .372 obp, .380 slg, 1 HR in 558 plate appearances. He would be more valuable if he were fast since he seems to be able to get on base, but he only has 14 career steals in 28 attempts in the minors.
Kudos to Neal Huntington for not giving in to the Yankees original request of AJ Burnett for Garrett Jones.
What’s everyone else think of this deal?
48 days until opening day, 1 day until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, and 2 days left to win this Dustin Pedroia T-Shirt.