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Posts Tagged ‘AJ Burnett’

AJ Burnett‘s time in pinstripes seems to be approaching its end, and the cost to jettison the enigmatic righty looks to be around $13 million. While AJ failed to deliver on his $82.5 million contract, his biggest problem was never attitude or talent: it simply is that AJ remains as inconsistent today as when he first broke into the big leagues. While he certainly can’t be a signing that Brian Cashman considers a success, AJ is far from a total flop. After all, he did actually contribute to a World Championship, and his stand-up attitude and shaving cream pies were welcome additions to the clubhouse. No, the Yankees have made their share of horribly awful deals over the years and I thought it might be fun to remember some of them. Here are the five most miserable transactions, and excuses for baseball players, in Yankee history – at least during the Steinbrenner Era.

#1: Tim Leary (RHP, 1990-92). 18-35 record, 5.12 ERA. The skinny: Originally acquired in a trade from Cincinnati for Hal Morris, nobody expected Leary to be the staff ace. Nobody expected him to lead the league with 19 losses, either. The mystifying part is why, after that, the Yankees signed him to a 3 year, $5.95 million deal. He was so terrible that midway through the ’91 season, he was sent to the bullpen – and the boos were so loud at Yankee Stadium that he ceased pitching at home. Before the ’92 season was over, the “Six Million Dollar Man” was exiled to Seattle. In return, the Yankees received the utterly forgettable Sean Twitty, who never made an appearance in the majors. Morris, however, went on to  a 13 year career in which he hit .304, won Rookie of the Year and was a key member of the Reds 1990 Championship team. Oops.

#2: Steve Kemp (OF/DH, 1983-84). .264 BA, 19 HR, 90 RBI. The skinny: Steve Kemp is the poster child for why guaranteed contracts aren’t necessarily a good thing. A two-time All-Star who averaged 21 HR and 98 RBI from 1979-82, Kemp was supposed to bring a left-handed power bat to Yankee Stadium. After two seasons in which Kemp seemed happier striking out than hitting home runs, the Yanks sent him packing to Pittsburgh for Dale Berra and Jay Buhner (yes, that Jay Buhner). Of course, Kemp’s 5 year, $5.45 million deal was guaranteed, so for the next three seasons the Bombers paid him to ride the bench in Pittsburgh, San Diego and Texas. I realize that in today’s baseball economy, middle relievers make more than a million bucks a season, so the money may not sound outrageous. But this was in 1983 – Kemp’s deal was worth more annually than Dave Winfield’s.

#3: Dave Collins (1B/OF, 1982). .253 BA, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 13 SB. The skinny: remember the Go-Go Yankees? Signed to a 3 year, $2.5M contract, Collins was supposed to team up with Rickey Henderson and Ken Griffey at the top of the line-up and let the Yanks steal a WS title. After stealing 79 bases in 1980 for Cincinnati, Collins only ran 21 times for the Yanks (and got caught 8 times, a miserable 61% success rate). He was traded prior to the 1983 season to Toronto and the Blue Jays demanded Fred McGriff as ransom. George’s attempts at recasting the 1982 Yankees as the 1959 White Sox cost the team more than a lost year and $800,000. It also wound up costing 493 career home runs. And it led to the Yanks signing Steve Kemp.

#4: Kenny Rogers (RHP, 1996-97) 18-15 record, 5.11 ERA. A classic example of a guy who simply couldn’t handle Broadway’s bright lights. When he pitched in small markets, Rogers was a four-time All Star, 5 time Gold Glover and a fixture in the postseason. For the Bombers, the Gambler just couldn’t get the job done, and he and his 3 year, $15M contract were shipped off to Oakland after only two years for the infamous Player to be Named Later. At least the PTBNL turned into Scott Brosius, who was anything but a dud for the Yanks.

#5: Carl Pavano (RHP, 2005-08) 9-8 record, 5.00 ERA. When Pavano hit free agency after the 2004 season, teams were lining up for his services. The Yankees outbid everyone and landed the former Marlin for 4 years and $38 million. We all know how that turned out. Pavano only made 26 starts over those four seasons as a myriad of strange injuries kept him off the pitching rubber (including the now infamous bruised butt). He probably would be more fondly remembered if he had done anything memorable in those starts, but he spent most of his time getting his ego as bruised as his tailbone. Like Rogers, once he left for smaller pastures he became a decent pitcher again, averaging 13 wins and 214 innings over the last three years for the Twins and Indians.

There are some notable honorable mentions who didn’t make the cut; guys like Raul Mondesi, Doyle Alexander, Jeff Weaver and Roy Smalley. AJ Burnett will undoubtedly join this list as a player who failed to live up to expectations, but he is a long way from being considered a flop on this scale.

So, what do you think? Are there any glaring omissions – or would you include AJ in the top 5? Let us know in the comments below. Fire Away!

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Bobby Abreu: Coming Back?

Bobby Abreu: Coming Back?

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.

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AJ & Phil: Thinking About Their Yankees Future?

AJ & Phil: Thinking About Their Yankees Future?

Remember back when the Yankees were in search of starting pitching? Well, barring a trade, Joe Girardi and the Yankee brain trust suddenly have a different problem. Quantity is no longer an issue, but the quality may leave something to be desired.

While the team and the fans should be comfortable when CC Sabathia takes the ball, the next three spots in the rotation figure to be taken by two second-year players and a 37 year old Japanese import from the NL. Hiroki Kuroda has enough of a track record that I’m reasonably confident he can fill out the third or fourth spot in the rotation, pitching to an ERA of around four and chewing up 180 or so innings. Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova were rookie sensations. The question isn’t whether they have the talent to compete in the majors, but rather if they can duplicate the success they had last year. Still, those questions pale in comparison with the headache that awaits Joe Girardi when trying to find a fifth starter.

The Yankees look to head to Tampa with three options for the 5 hole. Each could conceivably be the best 5th starter in baseball. Or any one of the trio could be the worst pitcher in the league. I’m talking, of course, about AJ Burnett, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes. One will break camp with that job, one will be in the bullpen as the long guy/spot starter and one should be a set-up guy.

Hughes: The Yankees desperately want the former first rounder to prove he can be a starter. After all, they’ve invested a ton of time and money into the Southern California native, and starting pitchers prove more valuable over the long-term than relievers. The problem is, Hughes has been a mediocre starter, but has proven lights out as a short reliever. In 71 career starts, Hughes has thrown to a 4.90 ERA while allowing opposing hitters to whack him around to a .751 OPS. In 49 relief appearance, he has a 1.44 ERA while holding opponents to a .470 OPS. To top it off, this is a kid who has spent considerable chunks of time on the DL since coming to the show. And yes, I know he was 11-2 with a 3.65 ERA in the first half of 2010 as a starter. But those numbers were an enigma, as his FIP (essentially, an ERA that doesn’t depend on fielders making great plays) was closer to his career normal ERA, 4.57. In other words, Hughes’ one great stretch as a starter came thanks to his teammates bailing him out more than anything else. And when that luck wore off in the second half, he returned to giving up runs in bunches. (Anyone remember the way Texas clubbed him mercilessly in the ALCS?) So while I can understand Hughes’ desire to be a starter, his best career move is to accept a role as a short reliever. Oddly enough, the Yankees should also accept that eventuality.

Garcia: Look, there’s no doubt that if comparing Freddy Garcia to AJ Burnett stuff-wise, this isn’t even a contest. Garcia is routinely around 89mph now with his fastball, while that’s about the speed AJ throws his change. Despite that, Garcia has outpitched AJ over the past few seasons. The problem for Freddy is that he hasn’t outpitched AJ by enough to get the nod for the fifth rotation spot out of Spring Training. The crafty veteran earned his contract for this season by figuring out ways to wiggle out of men-on-base jams all last summer, but it’s too much to expect a similar magician act this year. Besides, Garcia is on a one year, $5 million deal while AJ still has two years and $31 million left on his. Although the Yankees never admit that contracts come into these decisions, we all saw last season that they do – and will again this year. Freddy will still make the team, replacing the departed Bartolo Colon as the long man out of the pen.

Burnett: I’m not sure what the Yankees were expecting when they handed Burnett that ginormous contract in 2009, but I doubt a 34-35 record and 4.79 ERA was it. (Hopefully, they never spend like that on an erratic, 32 year old pitcher again). Still, it is one of the factors working in his favor when it comes time to pick a fifth starter. There can be no doubt that the Yanks will never be able to deal AJ and that albatross of a contract by burying him on the bench. Besides, there is one other thing that keeps AJ in the rotation: the fact he still has one of the best arms in the game. There is always the hope that this is the year he finally figures out how to be consistently good. Let’s face it: all you’re really hoping for is 25 starts and 150 innings of 4.75 ERA pitching out of the final rotation spot, and AJ is certainly capable of that. Of course, he also has the kind of talent that could turn in 20 spectacular starts. And he’s proven enough of an enigma that he could just as easily turn in 20 of the most horrendous pitching performances known to man. Since he has to be the odds-on favorite to be the 5th starter, we all better hope for the former.

So, there you have it. My best guess as to how the rotation will shake out come April. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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Yankees (89-57) vs. Mariners (61-86)

Pitching Matchup:

RHP A.J. Burnett (9-11, 5.27) vs LHP Charlie Furbush (3-8 4.84)

Yankees Lineup

Jeter SS
Swisher RF
Teixeira 1B
Cano 2B
Montero DH
Jones LF
Martin C
Nunez 3B
Gardner CF

The game will take place at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. It’s scheduled to start at 10:10p.m. ET. The game will be televised on the YES Network. The game can be heard on the WCBS 880 radio station. (more…)

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The Yankees open up a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field tonight. Here are the pitching probables for the series:

Mon: RHP Phil Hughes (4-5, 6.41) vs RHP Felix Hernandez (14-11, 3.15)

Tue: RHP A.J. Burnett (9-11, 5.27) vs LHP Charlie Furbush (3-8 4.84)

Wed: RHP Ivan Nova (15-4, 3.94) vs LHP Jason Vargas (8-13, 4.49)

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Yankees (81-53) vs. Red Sox (83-52)

Pitching Matchup:

RHP A.J. Burnett (9-1, 5.31) vs LHP Jon Lester (14-6, 3.09)

Yankees Lineup

Jeter SS
Granderson CF
Teixeira 1B
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Jones LF
Montero DH
Martin C
Nunez 3B

The game will take place at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. It’s scheduled to start at 7:10p.m. ET. The game will be televised on the YES and MLB Network. The game can be heard on the WCBS 880 radio station. (more…)

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Yankees (69-44) vs. Angels (63-52)

Pitching Matchup:

RHP A.J. Burnett (8-9, 4.54) vs RHP Dan Haren (12-6, 2.81)

Yankees Lineup

Gardner LF
Jeter SS
Granderson CF
Teixeira 1B
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Chavez DH
Martin C
Nunez 3B

The game will take place at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. It’s scheduled to start at 7:05p.m. ET. The game will be televised on MY9. The game can be heard on the WCBS 880 radio station. (more…)

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The Yankees open up a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium tonight. Here are the pitching probables for the series:

Tue: RHP A.J. Burnett (8-9, 4.54) vs RHP Dan Haren (12-6, 2.81)

Wed: RHP Ivan Nova (10-4, 3.81) vs RHP Garrett Richards (0-0, 0.00)

Thurs: RHP Bartolo Colon (8-6, 3.33 ERA) vs RHP Ervin Santana (7-8, 3.32)

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Luis Castillo, the Yankees batboy from 1998-2005 has come out with a new memoir entitled “Clubhouse Confidential.” He shares some secrets and some of his favorite memories while holding the position. Here’s just a peak at what it’s all about:

It was before Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, a game  that we would lose. The series was tied 3-3 at that point, and it was  particularly disheartening since we had won the first three games. Unknown to  us, Boston’s comeback was not to be stopped.

At any rate, at the end of the meeting it was traditional for Joe Torre to  ask Jorge Posada what we were going to do. He would reply, “Grind it!” This time  — I guess to make Hideki Matsui feel more part of the team — Torre turned to him at the end of the  meeting.

“What are we going to do?”Hideki paused for just a second before replying. “Kick ass. Pop champagne. And get some ho’s.”

Yankee fans are on the rise in Queens. “Transit direction website HopStop.com sifted through its database of searches to Yankee Stadium and Citi Field since opening day and found that the city leans heavily toward the pinstripes. In fact, more than 68% of travelers who used HopStop were headed to the Stadium in the Bronx, based on more than 100,000 queries.”

Yanks need a starter for Tuesday  Since Phil Hughes entered tonight’s game in the bottom of the 10th inning, the Yankees will need to decide on who to start Tuesday’s game. According to Wallace Matthews, “A. J. Burnett will probably replace Hughes on Tuesday, and either Bartolo Colon or Ivan Nova would go on Wednesday.”

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I recently had a canvas commissioned at Easy Canvas Prints of my late grandparents. The quality of their work is exceptional, and it seriously blew me away when I first opened up the package. Their customer service was terrific and was delivered in a timely fashion. So, if you have any interest in getting a canvas done of a iconic sports moment, a family photo, or quote..you now know where to go. (more…)

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Yankees (66-42) vs. White Sox (52-56)

Pitching Matchup:

RHP A.J. Burnett (8-9, 4.23) vs RHP Gavin Floyd (9-9, 3.96)

Yankees Lineup

Gardner LF
Jeter SS
Granderson CF
Teixeira 1B
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Chavez 3B
Posada DH
Martin C

The game will take place at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. It’s scheduled to start at 8:10p.m. ET. The game will be televised on the YES Network. The game can be heard on the WCBS 880 radio station. (more…)

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The Yankees open up a four-game series against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field tonight. Here are the pitching probables for the series:

Mon: LHP CC Sabathia (15-5, 2.56) vs RHP Jake Peavy (4-4, 5.27)

Tue: RHP Phil Hughes (1-3, 8.24) vs LHP John Danks (4-8, 3.79)

Wed: RHP A.J. Burnett (8-9, 4.23) vs RHP Gavin Floyd (9-9, 3.96)

Thurs: RHP Bartolo Colon (8-6, 3.30) vs RHP Philip Humber (8-7, 3.44)

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Ubaldo Jimenez

Some things are a given in life. The sun rises in the east. Commuter trains in New York are overstuffed and never run on time. The Yankees always make a trade in July.

Only, this year that last one might not happen.

It’s not for lack of need. The starting line-up is solid and the bench features guys who could start for better than half the teams in baseball. But the pitching staff, both in the rotation and the bullpen, is loaded with question marks. CC Sabathia is an unqualified ace; Mariano Rivera remains the king of closers and David Robertson has turned into one of the game’s most reliable set-up men. But the rest of the staff doesn’t inspire confidence on a daily basis.

The Yankees are plagued by the fact that among the presumed LCS teams, they’re the only team without a bona-fide number 2 starter. The Red Sox feature Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. The Phillies send Roy Halladay
and Cliff Lee. The Giants have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The Yankees keep hoping that AJ Burnett will be that number two guy – but after 2 ½ seasons of watching him implode at the most inopportune times, I can’t think of anyone who truly thinks he is. Bartolo Colon, based on his performance this year (7-6, 3.29 ERA, 8K/9) is probably the current #2, but he’s already thrown more innings than over the past 4 seasons combined and you have to worry about how much longer he can continue. Freddy Garcia keeps pulling magic acts on the mound, but his xFIP is nearly a half-run higher than his ERA; you get the feeling that sooner or later his luck is going to run out. Phil Hughes exploded on the scene in the first half of 2010, but since then he’s been less than a pedestrian pitcher (7-7, 5.76 ERA). Ivan Nova was sent back the minors earlier and despite showing signs of improvement when he was with the big club, he is nowhere near being a number two starter.

Likewise, the bullpen has a few holes. Rafael Soriano was brought in to be the primary set-up man, but he’s spent most of the season on the DL and was largely ineffective before getting hurt. Boone Logan is the supposed lefty specialist, but left handers are tuning him up to a 138 OPS+. While Cory Wade and Luis Ayala have been reasonably pleasant surprises, neither has experienced this level of success before. And heaven help us all if the abysmal Sergio Mitre is reactivated and added to the post-season roster.

So, like I said, the Yankees certainly have needs. The problem is there doesn’t seem to be anyone available in the trade market that can fill those needs. There’s been a lot of discussion regarding Ubaldo Jimenez, but the Rockies
asking price (3 or 4 of the Yanks blue chip prospects) is insane. Jimenez had a terrific first half of 2010. Otherwise, he’s a sub-.500 pitcher with a career ERA of 3.87 – while pitching in the offensively challenged NL West. If Brian Cashman adds him at tomorrow’s deadline, I’ll be underwhelmed. The other starters rumored to be on the market also aren’t overly impressive. They range from the oft-injured Erik Bedard to the recalcitrant Hiroki Kuroda
to baseball’s version of a spoiled two-year old, Carlos Zambrano. In short, barring some sort of unexpected blockbuster, there simply isn’t anyone available who provides an upgrade over what the Yanks currently have on hand.

In terms of bullpen help, the Yanks are certainly looking for a left hander – but good luck finding anyone. The Orioles probably want to rid themselves of Mike Gonzales and his bloated contract, but he has had zero success in the AL. The A’s might be willing to part with Brian Fuentes, but I can’t imagine the Yankees assuming around $8.5 million in contract for a guy who has actually been worse against lefties than Logan. The only other name I’ve seen available is the Cubs John Grabow. Like Fuentes and Gonzales, he’s been more piñata than pitcher.

So, there you have it. Unlike past deadlines, this one is looking pretty quiet for the Yankee front office.

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