Friday, February 17, 2012

Well, About Time...Burnett Deal Done

Give Neal Huntington credit. It may have taken a while, but he finally outlasted Yankee GM Brian Cashman and got a deal done for AJ Burnett. The Yankees tried to use the old Scott Boras tactic of leaking other suitors who may or may not have existed to add a little frenzy factor to the negotiations, but to no avail.

The Bucs didn't bid against themselves and ended up with a guy who upgrades their rotation through 2013 at a cost of $13M and two Class A players, OF Exicardo Cayonez and RHP Diego Moreno. The Pirates will pay AJ $5M this season and $8M in 2013.

As of now, the deal is contingent on Burnett passing his physical and the league OK'ing the Yankees eating $20M of Burnett's contract. Both should be pro forma, and when official, the Bucs will have to remove someone from their 40 man roster to make room for Burnett.

Cayonez was the highest priced Latino signing in Bucco history in 2008 when he inked a $400K deal (since bypassed by Luis Heredia and several others), but the 20 year old floundered offensively in A ball. The Yankees are getting a young, speedy center fielder who may yet develop as he acclimates to pro ball and El Norte.

Diego Moreno has a rocket arm. The righty reliever delivers a high-nineties heater and a dandy slider. The 25 year old has a career 2.42 ERA and 212 Ks in 194 IP with a WHIP under one in five minor league seasons.

But he hasn't had much luck at Altoona in two stops, and was suspended in 2010 and dropped a level. He was left unprotected in this year's Rule 5 draft and went unselected. Still, he projects as a eighth inning set-up pitcher, and has the tools to pitch in the show if he finds focus.

Losing these two guys doesn't dent the Pirate system. The FO has made a point of drafting power pitchers and athletic outfielders, and so were dealing out of areas of strength when they sent the pair to New York.

Burnett has a chance to become the Bucs #2, or could settle in at the back of the rotation. Right now, we'd rate him right behind Eric Bedard and ahead of James McDonald and Charlie Morton. Yes, his last two years in New York were ERA nightmares (5.26 and 5.15), but his xFIPs were solid (3.86 and 4.49).
He still throws in the low 90s, has a nice curve and misses bats. His major problem last season was getting beat up in division (6.22 ERA in the AL East) and giving up the long ball. Both problems could be solved as he leaves the new Yankee Stadium launching pad for the saner PNC gaps, and says so long to the AL East and howdy to the NL Central. Let's not forget that he's also trading in DHs for pitchers.

The downside, of course, is that he is 35 years old, the Yankee run support is considerably sturdier than Pittsburgh's, and his control has been a career-long issue. So we'll see how it all factors out come April.

The price was right on the nose. Fangraphs listed his FA value in 2011 as $6.7M, just about the $6.5M average of what the Bucs will pay him in 2012-13.

With the additions of Burnett and Erik Bedard, the Buc rotation has some potential, and certainly stronger than it was at this time last season. Now Clint Hurdle has six or seven potential starters, and that's not a bad problem.

It allows the team to start Brad Lincoln out in Indy and to take it easy with Charlie Morton. When he returns, Jeff Karstens and Kevin Correia should have enough innings to determine who stays on as the fifth man and who joins the bullpen. More importantly, it provides a little depth when injuries invariably strike.

It's been a busy off season for Neal Huntington, adding Clint Barmes, Rod Barajas, Casey McGehee, Eric Bedard and AJ Burnett.  Now on to Bradenton to see how it all works out..

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