Monday, January 9, 2012

Oh, AJ. What do we do with you?

Burch's post got me thinking...

The Yankees have made it clear recently that they care about spending. Gone are the days when they would buy all the best talent available, or at least try to. If George were still running things then there's a good chance that CJ Wilson would be a Yankee, Prince Fielder would be the new DH, and Jesus Montero would be down in AAA again next season thinking "what the hell?" But instead the Yanks are tighter with the dollar (a good thing, in my opinion), so we didn't bring in Wilson (nor Buehrle or Darvish), Jesus Montero will be the full-time DH, and the minor league system is not being seen as an after-thought or just outright ignored. I won't go as far as to believe they're going to get under the $189 million threshold for the Luxury Tax in 2014, but they aren't going to simply write-off $16.5 million either.

So to go along with Burch's post I'm going to give you the four things the Yankees could do with him, and give you my thoughts on each.

1. Send him to the minors.

I don't totally understand Major League Baseball rules, but I'm fairly certain that this is not really an option. I believe he'd have to pass through waivers before being sent down, and he wouldn't make it through because any team that picks him up would only have to pay him the league minimum of $480,000, while the Yankees would be on the hook for the remaining $16,020,000. Seeing that the Yankees care about money these days I don't see this happening.

2. Release him.

Well the whole money thing mentioned in the last option can be copied and pasted right here. This is essentially the same thing, only in this case AJ couldn't possibly end up in the Yankees minor league system.

3. Send him to the bullpen.

This seems to be the most liked option by those I've spoken with. They believe the team should just hide him in the bullpen, and only dust him off for mop-up duty after the game is already out of hand. It's funny, when I first wrote that sentence I thought, "well there won't be as many blow-outs for the guy doing mop-up duty with Burnett not starting", but it turns out that last season the Yankees lost more games by a difference of 3 or more runs with CC Sabathia on the mound than with AJ out there (6 to 5). But anyway... I don't think this is the best way to try and get the most value out of Burnett. Is it what's best for the team? Yeah, possibly. I mean, there's no obvious guy to take that rotation spot from AJ. I'd guess that guy would be Hector Noesi, but there's no way of knowing for sure that Hector would fare any better than AJ did. So if there's no certainty of an upgrade, then why bother? Especially when AJ was at least still worth $6.7 million, and the vast majority of that value came from his innings pitched (190.1). Hell, with Soriano, Robertson, and Rivera, Burnett would be lucky to throw more than 50 innings out of the bullpen. So that value would plummet. Don't believe me? David Robertson's value was $2.8 million, and I don't think a mop-up reliever would get anywhere near the same number that David got.

So can the Yankees do something with AJ Burnett that will at least get them some value, while not hurting their chances of winning? Well, I think so, which brings me to the fourth and final option...

4. Keep him in the rotation.

In 2010 Burnett's ERA+ was 82, and despite that ineffectiveness being there all season long, the Yankees still finished with the 2nd best record in the American League (1 game behind Tampa Bay). And last season his ERA+ was 86, and the Yankees finished with the best record in the American League. Part of that is because the Yanks got lucky that Boston collapsed like they did last season, but a big part of that is that the Yankee offense is just that powerful. If we had an offense like they do in Seattle then I'd be thinking "oh God, we can not let this guy pitch if we want to win". But since this is New York, then I can say "you know what, he may suck, but thank God we can still win due to a great offense".

Is there a chance the Yankees *gasp* miss the playoffs due to Burnett starting another 33 games? Sure. Especially if Phil Hughes can't turn things around and we have to lean on a kid like Noesi like we did with Ivan Nova last season. I'm certainly not guaranteeing that either the offense or Boston's poor play will bail out the team again, but it doesn't seem right to dismiss that as a possiblity since it's happened the last two years. But whatever, if I'm in charge AJ Burnett would start the season in the starting rotation. If things aren't looking good after the first month or two, then make a change. But I've seen teams that can win in spite of AJ's poor pitching, and I 100% believe the only value AJ has right now is eating innings, so let's give it a try.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)