ESPN: Yankees to Sign Burnett

According to “a baseball source,” Jerry Crasnick of ESPN is reporting that the Yankees’ stockpiling free-agent starting pitching continues with A.J. Burnett and the Yankees agreeing to a preliminary agreement for five years, $82.5 million.  While I am enamored with neither the length nor the cost of the contract, this is a good signing for a few reasons.  Burnett, if healthy, will be very good and has done fairly well with Toronto in the very tough AL East.  Consider also that Pettite, making $16 million per year for the last two years with the Yankees (turning 35 in 2007 and 36 in 2008), went 29-23, 4.29 ERA, 1.419 WHIP in those two years.  Can Burnett be expected to meet or exceed those numbers, averaged over 5 years?  If healthy–there’s that caveat that will likely become a hackneyed mantra over the next several years–he certainly should.

Burnett is also turning 32 in a month.  Last year, he was 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA, 1.342 WHIP in 34 starts.  In his three years with the Jays, he was 38-26, 3.94 ERA, 1.284 WHIP.  His stuff is just electric–high 90s fastball, wicked curve and slider, and he’s good at keeping batters on their heels.  His problem has obviously been staying healthy.  Yet if there is a flip-side to his oft-interrupted, injury-plagued career, it’s that he doesn’t have a ton of wear-and-tear from innings.  Though the clear counter-question is whether or not he can handle the innings load, and the speculation of wear-and-tear from injuries, I still think there is something to be said about the reduced innings load in his first 10 years–1,376 1/3 IP, including 951 2/3 in the last five years.  Take those last five years, two with Florida and three with Toronto–851 2/3 IP, 57-44, 836 K’s in 133 appearances/132 starts–and add about 100 innings, some starts, and some wins.  I for one would take that during his contract with the Yankees–about 190 IP/season average, 30-32 starts on average, and about a K an inning, and Burnett will probably win 15-18 games per year.

Again, the question is health.  The Yankees have essentially bet that Burnett will be healthy often enough to be very effective, to strengthen the top of the rotation, and to throw some serious power and heat at opponents for at least 30 starts a year.  Mike Sommer (The Sommer Frieze, please read and thank me later) says that his friend Josh Imboden likes the flame throwers.  By and large, so do I.  A pitcher who has the heavy gas and good, tricky off-speed stuff is my kind of pitcher.  That’s in good part why, despite some concerns about his contract and injury track record, I like the Burnett signing quite a bit.  Thus far, here is the rotation: Sabathia, Wang, Burnett, Joba, and possibly Pettite, Lowe, or Sheets.  That’s one hell of a starting four assured, and any of those would make it a top-notch five, no two ways about it.  Personally, I’d put Wang as a #2 with no disrespect to Burnett, but rather to contrast Wang’s nasty, heavy sinker with Sabathia’s lefty heat and slider before him, and Burnett’s heat/curve/slider afterward.  It’s also acknowledging the fact that Wang is nothing less than 54-20, 3.79 ERA, 1.293 WHIP in his 97 starts over four years with the Yanks.  That’s excellent #2 stuff, and he or Burnett can fill that role.  To me, it should be Wang.  If it’s Burnett, I won’t lose much sleep.  That Sabathia, Wang, and Burnett are the top 3, with Joba and another good arm looming, makes me thrilled that the Yankees will throw a rotation at opponents that gives the Yankees a better than decent chance to win every series this year.

Health is the key, and would be regardless of Burnett’s eventual signing.  But this is another very good sign the Yankees mean business, reinvesting the cash from the payroll to restock the staff.  Tell me that landing CC and Burnett in a couple days doesn’t drastically change the complexion of the AL East.  Tell me also that signing him and CC hasn’t brought smiles to Yankees fans everywhere.  There’s still the need to improve the offense, to me.  But that staff, including a significantly improved bullpen in 2008, have me thrilled that the Yankees can win close, low-scoring games as well from the mound.  That’s invaluable.

Published in: on December 12, 2008 at 5:21 pm  Comments (9)  

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. i’d rather save the money and not hire pettitte or sheets. use phil hughes . ditch the mike cameron idea and use that money for tex. let little G patrol CF

  2. Teixeira is the guy the Yanks need, but will they pursue him in earnest? They have hedged about Teixeira, and now the Orioles have cobbled together a huge offer for him. As I mentioned at Sliding Into Home and here at The Heartland, I’m not sold on the offense as it now stands–not enough patience, holes in CF/1B offense and bench, as well as old and downright poor with RISP/men on. I don’t want Cameron. He’d provide some improvement over Melky, to be sure, but at $10 million, with all the K’s and the poor average? No thanks.

  3. As you said, the big question with this move is health. It’s the one thing the Yanks can’t control, and the one thing that continually bites them in the azz… Burnett could turn out a great season with no problems, but could easily be another Pavano.. I’m hoping it’s the former.

  4. I concur with Mike about going after Teixeira however that ship has probably sailed. Hopefully Tex will go to the Nationals, Orioles, or stay in Anaheim. It would really make my winter that much better if he did not go to Boston.

    The next thing the Yankees need to do is to re-sign Pettitte. It will only be a 1 year deal and will round out the rotation.

    The one thing to watch this upcoming season is how the Rays’ young pitchers handle massive increases in their innings. Tom Verducci of SI has written at length about this subject. Young pitchers, who have big spikes in their innings one season, typically see a regression the next season.

  5. Hey V. I hope all has been well with you with school, and with college beckoning. I too feel hopeful that Burnett will be able to toe the rubber a lot, and he should be effective when he does–a hell of a lot better than PaVoldemort.

    What’s up, Tim? I too would love Teixeira, but don’t see it happening. It would be the greatest hot stove session of all time if the Yankees got Teixeira, but they focused on the starters this off-season–and landed the ones they wanted. I’d like Pettite back, but only at a reduced rate. $16 million for last year was a waste, though he was probably hurt down the stretch. But if he came back for, say, $13 million–splitting the difference between $16 and a significantly reduced $10 million–I’d take that. I bet he’ll be extra motivated after going 14-14, 4.54. That would be one hell of a rotation–CC, Wang, Burnett, Pettite, and Joba–and that’s the order I’d use, too. It would mean that an opponent would face a lefty every series. It would also mean mixing Wang’s heavy sinker with CC’s fastball/slider, and AJ’s fastball/curve/slider. Even the so-called back-end of the rotation would be Burnett, Pettite, and Joba. I’d take that any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

    I agree about the Rays generally, Tim, and also think that, while the experience of beating Boston in the ALCS getting to the Series was invaluable, they have to show that they can bounce back and repeat the roll they got on. It’s easier said than done. One thing is the staff and more innings. Another is whether or not people such as Andy Sonnanstine in 2009 is Andy Sonnanstine of 2008 (13-9, 4.38) or 2007 (6-10, 5.85). That’s night and day and, while he might have learned to pitch and keep hitters off-balance, he lacks overpowering stuff, and might settle into a mean between the two previous seasons. That is, he might be more of a .500 pitcher. Shields, Gazra, and Kazmir are for real, and Price is a stud, but can that bullpen duplicate their great 2008 in 2009? I don’t know about that. Percival was hurt again, Price will probably be in the rotation, and Wheeler, Howell, and Balfour pitched WAY above themselves in 2008. I’m not sure they’ll revert to previous form, but I’m also not convinced they’ll duplicate 2008, either. I think they got on a roll and played with a lot of confidence, which can be a fragile thing. We saw what happened with the Yankees and confidence after early-season struggles the last few years. The Rays were the opposite and more positive last year.

    Also, the offense should continue to improve with Longoria and Upton maturing–and healthy, but I’d be shocked if they win 97 games again scoring only 774 runs, batting .246 with RISP/.257 with men on/.232 with RISP, 2 outs. They need to improve on all those. I strongly suspect they’ll make a move for Giambi, since Pena and Longoria provide the bulk of the power, and Giambi would probably be an upgrade over Cliff Floyd. The Rays will need more offense, and pitchers showing again that they’re studs, not stiffs.

  6. great point about the rays pen jason- that collection of re-treads i think you called them once last year. i do think that the rays will continue to improve in a general way but i do agree with the wizard that they will regress next year. there is some talk that the Big G will sign for a year with us for small-ish contract- i wouldn’t mind having some DH-1st base insurance…

  7. im trying out my facebook badge

  8. i guess it didn’t work–nevermind

  9. We three share that about some Rays regression, Mike and Tim–a good sign, I think. I’m wondering what kind of offers Giambi will field in the next couple weeks. I’ve heard Toronto or the Rays, as a DH and back-up first baseman in parks where he’s had success. But I wouldn’t rule out a return to the Yanks either, Mike–as long as it’s not expensive. I wonder if Pettite returning or not will affect Giambi’s re-signing; that is, if the Yankees will successfully negotiate pay cuts for certain veterans. Giambi seems to have some options, while Pettite’s clear first choice is New York.

    I take it you didn’t figure out the Facebook badge, Mike.

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