A.J. Burnett’s Effect on the Yankees

A.J. Burnett has been one huge rollercoaster ride for the Yankees over the last three years. Most of it has been disappointment, which makes people forget that he has had good moments. This is a very appropriate time to write this article, considering there is a chance Burnett may not be in the Yankees rotation this year.  While Burnett’s contract is now seen as an albatross, he did help deliver the Yankees to a World Series championship. That contract is holding the Yankees back now for sure, but it has not been restricting the Yankees as much as people would think over the last three years.

How much would the Yankees be different had they not signed A.J. Burnett? Who would they have spent that money on? In 2009, it came down to A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe as pitchers the Yankees wanted to sign to go along with CC Sabathia.  Lowe pitched egregious in Atlanta for three years, and would not have been a better signing than Burnett. In three years for the Braves Lowe went 40-39, with a 4.57 ERA, and a 1.46 WHIP. Burnett’s numbers were not much better if any, but his 2009 season alone makes him for successful than Lowe ever was.

Now in 2010, the Yankees offered Cliff Lee more money than humanly possible with Burnett on the roster. They could not have offered him any more money, so Burnett had no effect on Cliff Lee not being a Yankee.  There was no other free agent pitcher in 2010 that would have made a huge difference. The Yankees may have made a run at Carl Crawford if they did not have Burnett, which would have been a mistake considering what he did for Boston last season. However, maybe without Burnett’s presence Cashman would have been more aggressive then he was in trading for a starting pitcher, before he acquired Michael Pineda. Cashman might have been able to acquire Cliff Lee or Dan Haren in a trade if he was more aggressive.

This year maybe the Yankees sign C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish to an A.J. Burnett like contract if Burnett was not here. I would not have been crazy about that either. Even though the Burnett contract was a mistake, there does not seem like there were a whole lot of great free agent starting pitcher options over the last three offseasons. However, if the Burnett contract does not allow them to sign Matt Cain or Cole Hamels next offseason it would be a big issue.

While Burnett has been a huge disappointment, the Yankees do not win the World Series without him in 2009. That is a fact. He saved the Yankees with a huge clutch performance in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series.  Burnett went 7 innings, allowed only 1 run, 4 hits, and had 9 strikeouts. If Burnett does not come through, the Yankees would have lost the first two games at home, and lost the World Series.  Burnett also won game two’s in the ALDS and ALCS, while throwing stinkers in both game five’s as well. In the last two years Burnett has represented himself pretty well in the postseason as well. He was pitching well against Texas in 2010, but Joe Girardi left him in to long and gave up the lead to Bengie Molina on a homerun. Burnett saved the Yankees season for one day last year by pitching winning well against the Tigers. Say what you want about Burnett, but he has come through in the clutch for the Yankees at times. This does not make him a complete bust, like say Carl Pavano.  Burnett has at least given the Yankees an average of 194 innings for 3 years, which is more than Pavano can say. Those innings are a lot tougher to replace than many people realize.

Obviously Burnett has done things over these past three years that drive you crazy. He has had unbearable stretches that make you really scratch your head. He has also had a sorry attitude at times, and has cursed the manager out when walking off the mound.  He has had times where he could not find the plate no matter what. Unfortunately at this stage in his career he is what he is, and is unlikely to change.  All of this had made Yankees fans despise him, and rightfully so.  However, Yankee fans should also not forget that he did help deliver a championship that the Yankees had been seeking desperately for.

About Matthew B

I am a student at William Paterson University and studying to become a sportswriter. I have a huge passion for the Yankees and love sharing my opinions on them. I can analyze every aspect of the Yankees very well. I am very active on Twitter so feel free to contact me there Twitter: @RAYROBERT9

Posted on January 21, 2012, in Personal Opinion, Player Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I’m in the minority than thinks he should and will get the chance to start this year. yes he gives you a heart attack every time he takes the mound but I’m ok with that. He has the stuff. What else can you do with him.

    i can’t see the Yankees trading him away.

    • Matt, what do you do with Burnett if say Hughes come to camp in very good or even great shape and has a lights out spring training. He certainly would deserve to open the season as the 5th starter.

      You would then have the starting rotation set: CC, Pineda, Kuroda, Nova and Hughes. The Yankees still at that point have Garcia and obviously AJ. What does the team do? Do they break camp and head North with 7 starters? I think one has to go. And in my scenario Garcia can’t be traded until either May or June I believe.

      I don’t know that there is an easy solution. And I also think the Yankees would have a nearly impossible task of trading Burnett UNLESS the want to eat about 60% of his remaining salary. A very tough call.

  2. I could see him being the 5th starter for sure. If he is here I think he is. Seeing Zambrano and Lowe traded gives me a slight hope for a trade.

  3. Maybe being the 5th starter will take pressure off him and he will pitch better. But like I said he has pitched well under pressure before so I don’t even think that is the issue with him.

    • Matthew, he was for all intense purposes the 4th or 5th starter last year. Especially the 2nd half of the season and he still stunk it up most of the time.

  4. The money AJ got was about what the Yanks thought he was worth at the time. Most free agents are overpaid and don’t meet exspectations. AJ looks good when you compare him to Lackey, Dice-K or any other free agent who gets injured and make no contribution. Last year the Yanks had 4 pitchers that had to be limited in innings, Hughes and Nova were on the Verducci list while Colon and Garcia were limited due to age. That made AJ’s innings more important. To his credit, he has won playoff games. I think with the money he is making he will be the 5th starter at the beginning of the season, unless Cashman can pull some more of his magic and trade him.

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