If A.J. Burnett does nothing more for the New York Yankees as a pitcher he did them a major favor off the field this week.
The Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels had worked a trade of the 35-year-old right-hander to the Angels in exchange for former Yankee outfielder Bobby Abreu.
However, as part of Burnett’s five-year contract with the Yankees, Burnett had the right to block a trade to up to 10 major-league teams. The Angels so happen to be one of those teams and he rejected the trade.
For the Yankees’ sake, I am very happy that A.J. rejected that swap. Abreu, who will turn 38 in March, is on a fast downward escalator in his career. A career .293 hitter, Abreu hit .255 in 2010 and a career low of .253 in 2011 with only eight home runs and 60 RBIs in 142 games.
Abreu is available because the Angels’ outfield is filled with left-fielder Vernon Wells, center-fielder Peter Bourjos and right-fielder Torii Hunter and, with the signing of free-agent first baseman Albert Pujols, the Angels already have a logjam at designated hitter between former starting first baseman Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo, who hit 29 home runs as a rookie first baseman last season.
The Angels were seeking Burnett as a No. 5 starter behind ace right-hander Jared Weaver, free-agent lefty C.J. Wilson and right-handers Dan Haren and Ervin Santana.
Abreu is owed $9 million in the final year of his contract and Burnett is owed $33 million over the final two seasons of his contract. It is unclear how much of Burnett’s salary the Yankees were willing to pay. A source did say it was a “considerable portion” and the Angels would not have been obligated to pay Burnett anything until the 2013 season.
Abreu likely would have assumed a platoon left-handed-hitting DH role with the Yankees in a tandem with the righty-swinging Andruw Jones. The Yankees would then have some money left over to re-sign backup infielder Eric Chavez to complete the 2012 roster. The Angels would get a No. 5 starter and be rid of an expensive bench player without adding money to the 2012 payroll.
Reports indicate that Burnett rejected the trade because his wife does not like flying to attend Bunrett’s games. That is the reason Burnett listed all of the West Coast teams on his 10-team no-trade list. The same reports indicate that the Yankees are still trying to pursue a trade for Burnett with the Pittaburgh Pirates.
So far the Yankees have struck out on deals for Burnett that included 30-year-old first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones of the Pirates, 34-year-old first baseman/DH Travis Hafner and now Abreu. However, if they agree on a deal with the Pirates to unload a portion of Burnett’s salary and the Yankees can get a few young prospects from the Pirates in return for Burnett they likely would have enough money to sign a free-agent DH this weekend and work out a deal with Chavez.
The Yankees are looking to add former Phillie outfielder Raul Ibanez, who said he would be willing to accept less money in order to play with the Yankees. The team also possibly could sign two members of the Yankees’ 2009 world championship club in Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Right-handed-hitting DH Vladimir Guerrero also expressed an interest in playing with the Yankess but the team is strictly looking at signing a left-handed hitter.
Let’s face reality here. The Yankees would be better off with a combination of either Ibanez and Chavez or Damon and Chavez than Abreu and Chavez. That is the reason the Yankees should actually thank Burnett for nixing the deal and exercising his no-trade rights. It now actually forces the Yankees into trying again with the Pirates.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and his Pirates counterpart Neal Huntington have spent so much time talking with each other this week they may end up picking out china patterns. The Pirates remain confident a deal can be reached, but the Yankees have told the Pirates they would like the deal completed before Burnett is required to report to the spring training in Tampa, FL, on Sunday.
The two teams are trying to come to agreement on how much money the Pirates will pay towards Burnett’s contract and what prospects the Pirates would be willing to trade.
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.