Pirates’ Deal For Burnett Still On Front Burner

This bulletin just in from the news room: A.J. Burnett is still a New York Yankee.

This trade saga has played out for nearly a week and there still is no resolution, which shows that the Pittsburgh Pirates are being very difficult trade partners.

This is what we do know at this hour: The Pirates are definitely seeking the 35-year-old right-hander in a trade. The Yankees would like two things in return. No. 1 is some financial relief from the $33 million owed to Burnett over the next two seasons. No. 2 they would like to have a few young prospects to stock they burgeoning minor-league stockpile of talent.

But those two requests have held up the deal.

First, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington rejected the Yankees’ request for 30-year-old first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones, who could have filled in nicely as the Yankees left-handed designated hitter in 2012.

Now there seems to be some snag regarding how much money the Pirates will pick up of Burnett’s contract. The Pirates reportedly offered $10 million and just wanted that payment to Burnett to be the deal. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said no to that proposal, claiming any deal for Burnett had to include players in return.

Now the haggling is coming over what prospects the Pirates are willing to give up and to what extent those players change how much the Pirates will pay towards Burnett’s contract. Does trading two prospects mean the Pirates only pay $6 million? Who knows how they come up with that formula?

Hence the delay.

Meanwhile, a number of other related items about the Burnett are swirling.

First, the Cleveland Indians were one of four teams who have shown interest in Burnett but they rejected a deal that would have sent first baseman/designated hitter Travis Hafner to the Yankees in return.

Hafner, 34, would have satisfied the Yankees’ desire for a power-hitting left-handed hitter they could platoon at DH with Andruw Jones.

Hafner, who is nicknamed “Pronk.” hit .280 with 13 home runs and 57 RBIs in 94 games with the Indians in 2011. He is owed $13 million this season and an additional $13 million in 2013 with a $2.75 million buyout.

The Yankees were obviously hoping to unload Burnett’s $16.5 million for Hafner’s $13 million to give them about $5.5 million to re-sign infield reserve Eric Chavez to round out the team’s roster for 2012. But the Indians and Yankees halted talks and the deal is considered dead.

If the Yankees do acquire prospects from the Pirates, they would like to have enough money available to sign a DH. The odds-on favorite is left-handed-hitting outfielder Raul Ibanez, a former Phillie. He said he would accept less money in order to play with the Yankees.

The Yankees also have an interest in former Yankees Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.

However, another free-agent designated hitter has expressed an interest in donning pinstripes. Vladimir Guerrero, 37, contacted the Yankees to apply for the job.

Guerrero hit .290 with 13 home runs and 65 RBIs with the Orioles last season. But the Yankees would seem to have little interest in Guerrero because he is a right-hand hitter and the Yankees have Jones to DH from the right side. In addition, Guerrero’s power stroke is waning and it would not seem to fit in with the larger dimensions in left at Yankee Stadium.

But it is useless for the Yankees to even consider DH prospects unless the Burnett deal is signed and sealed.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the Yankees want the deal done by Saturday, a day before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, FL. The Yankees do not want Burnett showing up on Sunday and then having to ship him out a few days later.

According to reports, the Pirates are optimistic about resolving the monetary and player issues with the Yankees.

Well, if they are, then so am I.




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