Over the weekend, rumors have been hot & heavy regarding a proposed trade that would send AJ Burnett and cash to the Pirates in exchange for a couple of minor leaguers. Joel Sherman in this morning’s New York Post has an interesting write-up. The deal right now is hung up on the two teams agreeing to fair compensation, given the amount of money the Pirates want along with AJ.
It seems as if the Yankees are intent on moving AJ purely as a player dump, with the hope that they can free up enough payroll to find a left-handed bat for the DH spot. I’m fine with just dumping AJ, who has been the model for inconsistency throughout his career and whose Yankee career has been underwhelming (to say the least). But what if the Yanks could actually get a quality bat in return, rather than the borderline prospects the Pirates seem willing to part with? Such a deal may be possible. Ken Rosenthal tweeted
around 11:30am that the Angels would like to have AJ’s services. And the Angels have a serious logjam at DH/OF, with the expected return of Kendrys Morales, youngsters Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, and Peter Bourjos and veterans Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells all looking for playing time. Add Albert Pujols to the mix, who is guaranteed to take over at first, and suddenly Trumbo and Morales are without a position. In short, they have seven players for four spots. Somebody will be the odd man out in that game of musical chairs and my guess is it will be Abreu.
The Yankees are familiar with Abreu, who patrolled right field for the Bombers from 2006-2008. While his skills have declined, the Yanks are only looking for a part-time left handed bat, a role Abreu could certainly fill. His power has taken a serious dive over the past two seasons, but his splits against right handers are still decent (.259/.366/.400) and after adjusting for ballparks, actually slightly better than league average (108 OPS+). And in clutch and high leverage situations, Abreu still shows the ability to rise to the occasion: in 104 “clutch” plate appearances last year, Abreu hit .306/.423/.482. We all know he isn’t anyone’s idea of a good outfielder, but the Yanks probably wouldn’t play him more than 10-15 games in the outfield anyway – not enough to have his fear of walls do any real damage to the Chase for 28.
There are two huge obstacles to getting a deal done: the first is AJ’s no-trade clause. The Angels are one of the ten teams on his list and it seems AJ is dead set on staying on the east coast. But we’ve all seen no-trade clauses get waived when the player is given enough “incentive.” I suspect AJ can be properly incented, given the difference between the Pirates and Angels chances for winning – and the difference in their home ballparks. (In case you hadn’t noticed, Angels Stadium is much more pitcher friendly than PNC Park). The other is, of course, the money. Abreu is in the last year of his deal and owed $9 million, while AJ has two years and $33 million left on his. But it seems to me that if the Yanks are willing to pay the Pirates $10-13 million for a pair of borderline prospects, then the Yankees could agree to a similar amount for Abreu. And once Abreu is off the books next year, the Yanks would look to have even more salary space next season to find a DH type than they would if they accept the Pirates trade offer. Let’s say the Yanks agree to pick up Abreu’s contract for this year and chip in an additional $5 million in cash, along with an extra $3 million for AJ to head west. $17 million is a hefty price to get AJ out of town – but I still prefer that to the Pirates offer, as the Yanks would get a known commodity for 2012 and salary relief for 2013.