The Finish Line?

Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman have been tweeting up a storm today about the possible AJ Burnett trade. Sherman wrote earlier today
“#Yankees know they can make AJ deal with #Pirates, still talking $ and plyrs, want to make sure nothing else available b4 pull trigger”.
He followed up with
“#Yankees hv talkes to 4 teams on AJ, w was on his 10-team no trade. Of other 3 #Pirates most aggressive. Deal very doubtful today”.

Heyman writes-
“#yankees don’t love the 2 minor leaguers #pirates offered for aj. best guess, it still gets done, with pitt paying $13-15M of aj’s $33M”

So, this could be the end of the AJ era. Followers of this space will know that I am not upset about this however the reason may surprise you. It’s not that AJ was mediocre or worse. He had his moments and we should not forget that his start in Game 2 of the 2009 Series was huge. What bothered me about AJ was that he was too high maintenance. He showed up his manager. He punched doors. He forgot to cover first. He needed his own personal catcher. The pie stuff was fun, but he provided more headaches than smiles.

Hopefully, the Yankees have learned something from all of this. First, you can’t use a small sample to make big money decisions. One of the big justifications for giving AJ a five-year/$82.5 million deal was his success against the AL East. AJ came to the Yankees with a 5-0 record against Boston and a 2.56 ERA in 56-1/3 innings. Anyone know how many times he beat Boston as a Yankee? The answer is once, on September 1st, 2011, Burnett went 5-1/3 innings while allowing 2 earned runs at Fenway for the win. In his entire Yankees’ career, AJ went 1-4 with a 7.29 ERA against Boston in 54-1/3 innings. His performances against Boston were so bad, that if you throw them out of the equation his career ERA with the Yankees drops a quarter of a run from 4.79 to 4.54. So much for basing decisions on 50-something innings of work.

I think the Yankees have learned the other lesson I want them to. That is that there are very few pitchers worthy of big-money contracts. CC Sabathia has been everything you could want him to be. Mike Mussina was a great free agent signing, but those are more the exception than the rule. From Kenny Rogers to Carl Pavano to AJ, the Yankees have thrown far too many dollars away on free agent pitchers. It’s one of the things I love about the Pineda trade. Pineda will cost the Yankees under $1 million over the next two seasons. He won’t be a free agent until 2017. If the Yankees are right about him, they will have traded for an incredible bargain.

And that’s the thing, betting on pitching is a suckers bet. The Yankees will most likely regret the extension they gave CC this offseason. Tampa has done an amazing job of developing their pitching rotation and they provide an example for the whole league. Amazingly, when James Shields makes his first start this season, it will be the first time since 2007 that Tampa has started a pitcher over the age of 30. Developing young pitching will be vital to winning in the future and the Yankees seem to have finally gotten that message.