New York Yankees: A.J. Burnett

Market Watch: Keith Law's Top 50

November, 5, 2013
This winter will be a tumultuous one for the Yankees with a lot of new faces expected to be brought in and old ones to depart. To keep up with it all in the blog, we will track each of the players the Yankees are trying to keep or pursue in a feature we call Market Watch.

Keith Law's Top 50 has some no-brainers. Robinson Cano is No. 1 on the list. There is some great insight into the hype about possible future Yankees Masahiro Tanaka. And there are some surprises -- lookey there at No. 10, it is old friend A.J. Burnett!

From the baseball officials that I've spoken to with knowledge of the Yankees' plans, I believe their top four free agents are: Cano, Tanaka, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

Now, free agency is a fluid situation and teams must change plans depending on circumstances, but in an ideal world they would land at least two, maybe three, of these players and remain under Hal's $189M goal.

On Cano, Law gives the 31-year-old a high grade in terms of sustaining his prowess for a few more years, at least.

If you want an impact player and have $22 million to $25 million a year to spend, this is your guy, a 2-hole hitter for the next three or four years who should still be productive into his mid-30s.

Tanaka is the Japanese starter that the Yankees plan on making a "strong bid" for in the posting process. Law says he is more like Hiroki Kuroda than Yu Darvish.

Comparisons to Yu Darvish are unfortunate, and wrong, but if we must keep to former NPB players, Hiroki Kuroda is a better fit: A potential No. 2 starter with outstanding control and at least one above-average to plus off-speed weapon to miss bats.

While Burnett, 37 in January, was mostly a bust in pinstripes, Law rates him him at No. 10 on his list, behind starters Tanaka, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ricky Nolasco. Law writes:

Three guaranteed years might be pushing it at his age, but his recent track record says he's worth that and more than $15 million per year.
To read the complete Top 50 click here (insider)

A.J. & Russell bolt Bronx, bolster Bucs

October, 3, 2013
Russell MartinCharles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsEx-Yanks Russell Martin and A.J. Burnett are in the playoffs. The Bombers are playing golf.
Many in the Yankees' baseball operations department wanted to keep Russell Martin last winter. Not many, if any, thought A.J. Burnett should stay after 2011.

They are now both Pittsburgh Pirates and in the bottom of the first inning Thursday evening in St. Louis, Burnett will be throwing to Martin in Game 1 of the NLDS.


Are you rooting for A.J. Burnett, Russell Martin and the Pirates?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,055)

They are in the playoffs, while the Yankees wait for next year.

Before the 2012 season, the Yankees broke their loose policy of not negotiating extensions in the middle of contracts by talking with Martin's agent, Matt Colleran. They never came close to an agreement.

Early that winter, with an eye toward the $189 million mark in 2014, GM Brian Cashman could not offer anything. Martin did not want to wait around and signed with the Bucs for two years and $17 million before the Yankees could make a formal proposal. Martin hit .226 with 15 homers and 55 RBIs for the Bucs this season. He led them to their wild-card victory by going deep twice.

You know Burnett's story, but you may have forgotten the Yankees were required to pay him $8.5 million this season, while the Pirates were responsible for $8 million. Burnett, who is in the final season of his five-year, $82.5 million deal, went 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA in 2013.

How have the two youngsters the Yankees received from the Pirates in the Burnett deal performed in the minors? Diego Moreno, the 26-year-old righty reliever, went 3-4 with a 3.89 ERA in Class A ball and Double-A, while Exicardo Cayones is already out of the Yankees' system. He hit .233 for the Angels' Class A team.

Best-pitched games: Yankees vs. Mets

May, 28, 2013
Debby Wong/USA Today SportsHiroki Kuroda's start last season was one of the best by a Yankee against the Mets.
Matt Harvey figures to garner much of the attention on Tuesday, but let’s not forget that Hiroki Kuroda is as capable of pitching a gem of a game as the Mets ace. In fact, he’s had good starts against the Mets in the past.

With that in mind, let’s look back at the best Yankees pitching performances in this rivalry.

We’ll list the best statistically by Bill James Game Score, a stat that ranks starts on a scale that is usually from 1 to 100 (based on innings, runs, hits, strikeouts, and walks).

Andy Pettitte, 2002 -- Game Score 87 (9 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 8 K, 2 BB)
There have been two shutouts in the Mets-Yankees rivalry. One was thrown against Andy Pettitte and one was thrown by him, an 8-0 win.

The latter took 120 pitches, but it was the usually-consistent Pettitte in control. The Mets would put two men on base in only one inning and Pettitte took care of that threat with an inning-ending pickoff.

Did You Know? Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett are the only pitchers to throw consecutive starts of seven innings or more allowing no runs in this rivalry.

Roger Clemens, 2000 World Series -- Game Score 87 (8 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 9 K, 0 BB)
Though this game is best remembered for Clemens throwing a bat shard at Mike Piazza, it should be noted that this was a game in which Clemens pitched at the highest level.

Mets hitters had little chance against Clemens on a 49-degree night in the Bronx. He struck out four hitters in the first two innings and was never touched on the way to putting the Yankees up 2-0 in the series.

Did You Know? The highest Game Score by a Yankee in a World Series game is 97 by Don Larsen in his perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.

A.J. Burnett, 2009 -- Game Score 82 (7 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 10 K, 3 BB)
Burnett had his share of Jekkyl and Hyde moments as a Yankee, but against the Mets, he was consistently great. In this start, he allowed only an Alex Cora single in the sixth inning en route to a 5-0 win.

Did You Know? A dozen Yankees pitchers have made at least three regular-season starts against the Mets. Burnett had a 3-0 record and 1.33 ERA in his three starts, the best of those 12 pitchers.

Hiroki Kuroda, 2012 -- Game Score 81 (7 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 7 K, 1 BB)
Kuroda’s effort was a near-duplicate of Burnett’s, with the Mets getting their only hit in the sixth inning, a double by Omar Quintanilla.

The man on the mound for the other team got a bit more attention, since it was Johan Santana’s first start following his no-hitter. This one didn’t go well, with the Yankees tagging him for three straight homers in the third inning.

Did You Know? Over the last seven seasons, the Yankees have had two pitchers allow one hit in seven innings against the Mets. All other major-league teams have combined for two such games from their pitchers.

David Cone, 1997 -- Game Score 79 (8 IP, 2 R, 2 H, 11 K, 2 BB)
The inaugural Subway Series finale was a great game between the two teams at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees would end up prevailing 3-2 on a hit by Tino Martinez, but early on it looked like Cone's dominance against his former team would be the story.

Cone took a no-hitter into the seventh inning then tired, allowing a run in each of the next two frames. The game-tying score would be a famous one in the rivalry when Steve Bieser coaxed Cone into a balk from third base.

Did You Know? David Cone’s 145 combined wins for the Mets and Yankees (81 Mets, 64 Yankees) are the second-most for a pitcher for those two teams. The most is 181 by Dwight Gooden (157 Mets, 24 Yankees), who will be helping broadcast the Harvey-Kuroda duel tonight.

Pie celebration? RIP?

April, 27, 2012
After the Yankees won in the ninth inning, there was no pie in the face for anyone. Nick Swisher, who had talked about continuing the tradition in spring training, said he isn't doing it.

"I'm not the pie guy, dog," Swisher said.

It wasn't obvious who would have gotten the pie anyway. Derek Jeter scored the game-winning run on the passed ball. I'm not sure anyone would dare throw shaving cream in the Captain's face. Jeter was asked if he were disappointed not to be pied.

"What do you think?" Jeter said. "No, I'm not disappointed."

So A.J. Burnett's legacy may be over.

Very bad news for A.J. Burnett

March, 1, 2012

The Pirates just announced A.J. Burnett has an orbital fracture of his right eye and will undergo surgery tomorrow.

Video: A.J. Burnett bunts ball off his face

February, 29, 2012

A.J. Burnett, practicing bunting today as a Pirate, fouled one off his face. Burnett is returning to Pittsburgh to have his eye checked out.

Who will replace A.J.?

February, 24, 2012
Now that A.J. Burnett is a Pittsburgh Pie-rate, there is one more opening on the Yankee roster: That of pastry-throwing lunatic at the conclusion of a Yankees walk-off win. Joe Girardi was asked today if the practice, brought to the Yankees by Burnett three years ago, would depart the club with him.

"Well, I prefer banana cream myself,'' the manager said, apropos of nothing. "Someone might adopt it, who knows? The guys enjoyed it. So someone might do it, continue on the tradition.''

Hoch of suggested the obvious choice -- Nick Swisher.

"If I was to guess, I think that’s a pretty good guess,'' Girardi said.

Then I chimed in with my own personal favorite -- Rafael Soriano.

"You think outside the box,'' Girardi said. "I like that.''

QUESTION: Who do you like as the official team pie-thrower for this season? Enter your choices below and we'll publish the final tally in a few days.

Russell Martin: A.J.'s right

February, 20, 2012
Russell Martin, one of the few Yankee catchers to develop a rapport with A.J. Burnett -- or at least, not get fired by him -- agreed with Burnett's assessment that he allowed "too many people to tinker'' with his delivery during his stormy three-year stint as a Yankee.

"Exactly,'' Martin said. "A big part of getting better is knowing what information to retain and knowing what information to block out. The best way to do it is, when you’re working on something, work on something specific, work on that well and make it muscle memory. Once you get that going, you can move on to something else. If you’re trying to tinker with eight things at the same time, you’re not going to get any progress.”

Martin seconded the popular theory that Burnett's problems were centered above his shoulders rather than in it. "I think sometimes he would let negative thoughts get into his mind and they would affect him a little bit,'' Martin said. "It wasn’t the fact that he didn’t care or anything; he probably cared more than anybody. He’s just very hard on himself and sometimes over-critical, and when you do that, sometimes you just go the wrong way. Instead of just simplifying the game, he would listen to everybody trying to help him out, and when you do that, it becomes chaotic. I think that’s what was happening in his mind.”

Martin said he and Burnett, who he referred to as "my boy,'' exchanged text messages after the trade become official.

Martin's: "I'm going to bunt on you.''

Burnett: "LOL. I know you better than that, man.''

The Yankees travel to Bradenton this spring to face the Pirates on March 6, and the Pirates visit Tampa on March 20. Said Martin: "I think he might go over there with a chip on his shoulder and try to prove to the Yankees that they made a bad decision.''

A.J. says, "Tinker?" No chance

February, 20, 2012
A.J. Burnett said the Yankees may have tinkered with him too much. That's rich. Burnett blaming the Yankees when they thought he was so bad they are paying $18 million for him not to pitch for them.

Here is the money quote from A.J.'s presser today in Bradenton.
"I let a few too many people tinker with me, maybe," Burnett said. "When you let that happen, you start doubting yourself sometimes. You wonder, 'Am I doing it right? Is this how it's supposed to feel?' and things like that. In '09, nobody messed with me. I was able to do what I wanted to do on the mound, whether it was turn around, close my eyes and pitch upside down. Then you have a few bad games and you start changing and listening."

Burnett has talked about being tinkered with before. This, I believe, goes back to '10 when he sort of blamed then-pitching coach Dave Eiland for his struggles. One problem, though? Burnett pitched well before Eiland took his leave of absence that year, then he stunk. Most thought Eiland helped make A.J. good.

The problem here is about responsibility. Burnett didn't know he should just take the blame that he had a five-plus ERA the last two years and didn't earn his money. That should have been it. But to blame anyone else is ridiculous.

Question: What do you think of A.J. "tinker comments?

A.J. officially is an ex-Yank

February, 19, 2012
The A.J. Burnett trade is official. Burnett is a Pittsburgh Pirate.

He passed his physical and the commissioner approved the $18 million the Yankees are Fed-Exing to Pittsburgh.

Next, the Yankees expect to sign Raul Ibanez next and then, likely, Eric Chavez.

For now, though, the news is A.J. is no longer a Yankee.

A.J.: Worth the money

February, 18, 2012
That's my take in today's column about A.J. Burnett on the website, which you can read by clicking here.

Read, think about, react. Thank you.

A.J. deal may not be final until Tuesday

February, 18, 2012
The Yankees and Pirates are in full agreement on the terms of the A.J. Burnett deal, but they still need the approval of Big Brother Bud Selig before Burnett officially becomes a Buc. That approval was not given Friday night -- the deal was finalized too late in the day for that -- and a source deeply involved in the negotiations told me last night that the official Selig Stamp of Approval would probably not come before Monday afternoon or perhaps Tuesday.

The reason is the Commissioner's office, which must approve all deals in which large amounts of cash are involved, will wait until Burnett passes his Pirates physical, which he will take Sunday morning at their training camp in Bradenton. The results generally take a day or so to come in.

Odds are Burnett will pass -- he made 98 starts in three seasons as a Yankee and threw an average of 195 pain-free, for him anyway, innings per year -- but there is always the chance that he won't. (Think Hideki Okajima.)

In any event, Burnett will not be in Yankees camp when pitchers and catchers report Sunday morning and is, for all intents and purposes, a Pittsburgh Pirate. But it won't be official for a couple more days yet.

How the money will be split up

February, 17, 2012
Per a source with knowledge of the deal with the Pirates, there is $30.9375 million left on A.J. Burnett's $82.5 million contract. The Yankees pay their contracts year-round so they have already eaten a chunk out of this year's salary. It has been previously reported that Burnett had $33 million left on his deal.

The Yankees will pay Burnett an additional $9.4375 million this year, while the Bucs will pick up five million. Next year, the Pirates will pay $8 million, while the Yankees will send $8.5 million to Burnett.

Yankees expect quick approval of AJ deal

February, 17, 2012
So says an official involved in the trade negotiations with the Pirates that will move A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh and bring two low-level prospects to the Bronx. According to the official, league approval by on a deal such as this -- the Pirates will assume about $13 million of Burnett''s salary, less than half the $31 million remaining on his deal -- should come "within a couple of hours'' of it's being submitted to the Commissioner's office. Meaning that this long national nightmare could be over by early this evening.

Rapid Reaction: A.J. Burnett deal

February, 17, 2012

WHAT IT MEANS: Yankees fans won't have to watch A.J. Burnett give up three-run homers after looking great for much of the day. More importantly, for the front office, they will save a little -- $13M -- on what was a bad contract (five years and $82.5M). Burnett had his moments in the World Series and pitched pretty well in Game 4 of the ALDS, but there were too many black eyes in his three years in pinstripes.

WHAT DID THEY GET: The Yankees got two players from the Pirates who more than likely will never see the Bronx and, if they do, it will be as bit players. We went into detail about who Diego Moreno is here and Exicardo Cayones is here. These aren't top prospects, but, in the case of Marino, the Yankees are hoping they can straighten out his attitude and maximize his talent. But the guy is already 25 and has barely pitched at Double-A. Cayones is young, just 20, so he has time to develop. In other words, don't hold your breath waiting for these guys.

WHO WON THE DEAL: It is a good trade for both clubs, I think. Burnett, even with a reduced fastball, could do well in the NL Central after pitching in the AL East. "Well" is a relative term. He just became the first starter in Yankee history to have two seasons of 150 innings-plus and pick up a five-plus ERA.

The Yankees get $13 million back, which is not bad considering Burnett was their seventh starter. Now, the fight for the fifth spot is a two-man battle.

WHAT IS NEXT: The Yankees next move is expected to be signing Raul Ibanez as their lefty DH. He appears to be the first choice, though, Johnny Damon, among others, is still out there. The Yankees could also sign Eric Chavez to serve as Alex Rodriguez' caddy.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Wally is going to have a column that should be wrap everything up.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Well, what do you think? A.J. is traded. Good deal or bad deal? Be heard.



Masahiro Tanaka
13 2.77 141 136
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146