Shocked!

So Brian Cashman had the audacity to say that AJ Burnett would be in the rotation next year “if he’s with us”? You mean the Yankees might actually explore trading a guy who has put up a career record of 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA in pinstripes and will be 35? How could we ever part with our #2 starter?

Ok, sarcasm aside, I was thrilled by Cashman’s comments. I have said it numerous times, but the only reason AJ Burnett is pitching in the rotation is the contract he signed. If his name had been Nova, Hughes or Noesi last year, he would have been in the bullpen or the minors. It is stupid to pretend that AJ is going to get better at this point. We have all seen the body of work in a Yankee uniform, the aforementioned numbers, which were compiled over 584 innings. He is also 35 and his fastball has slowed down from an average of 94.2mph when he arrived in 2009 to 92.7mph this past season. Finally, we know he is not a guy who can “figure it out” on the mound.

The Yankees would be very, very wise to dangle him out there this winter and see what they can get. The Braves just did a similar thing with Derek Lowe and they pulled off a decent trade. They still pay Lowe $10 million, but that is a sunk cost, it would have happened anyway. They also got a 23-year old pitcher who is in the low minors, but projects as a lefty arm out of the pen. Most importantly, they clear a spot in the rotation for someone from the minors to step in and they have several candidates.

The Yankees are in the same boat with AJ, they just have more dollars to eat. He is going to earn $33 million over the next two seasons and there is nothing they can do about that. They have plenty of options in the minors who could probably at least equal AJ’s performance. (Remember his 4.79 ERA as a Yankee is mostly due to his 4.04 ERA in 2009, the last two year’s have been over 5). Give the ball to Adam Warren and see what he does. Move on to David Phelps if Warren can’t do it. How about Noesi in the rotation? Really anything is preferable to another year of AJ. And don’t forget, before AJ got here, he was incredibly fragile. How will the Yankees feel if he gets hurt this year and then they can’t trade him?

If the Yankees could get a similar deal to the one the Braves got ($5 million per year of salary relief and a decent prospect) they should jump at the chance. Don’t get hung up on the $23 million they will have to pay AJ to NOT pitch for them. The sad fact is that it is still better than paying him $33 million TO pitch for them.