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Would A.J. Burnett Be a Fit in Oakland?

February 8, 2012

There is no actual rumor that the A’s have any interest in A.J. Burnett – it is however well known that the Yankees would love to unload the pitcher, who has $33M left on his contract over the next two years. Today on Tim Dierkes speculated that perhaps the A’s are one team that might be a fit. He wrote of their potential interest,

“when Bartolo Colon is your innings guy, a little more veteran depth wouldn’t hurt.”

I have said that I wouldn’t mind the A’s signing another pitcher. Any acquisition of Burnett who has more than worn out his welcome in the Bronx, would likely cost next to nothing in a trade. However, Dierkes also speculates that Burnett’s value on the market is about $10-12M over two-years, so let’s assume that the Yankees would be willing to pay for all of his contract except that. Would it be a worthwhile move for the A’s?

Burnett has in his career put together a 4.10 ERA and 4.01 FIP with 33.2 WAR. When the Yankees signed him as a free-agent prior to the 2009 season, he had just come off a 5.5 WAR season with Toronto with a highish 4.07 ERA but solid 3.45 FIP with a great 9.4 K/9. Through his 2008 season (or in other words when he signed with the Yankees), he had managed 8.4 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 with 0.8 HR/9 adding to a 3.75 FIP, well inline with his 3.81 ERA. After a successful first year in New York, the wheels came off in 2010 and over his last two seasons in New York he has posted a second worst in MLB during this timeframe 5.20 ERA, 3rd-worst 4.80 FIP while watching his K/9 sink to 7.6, as his HR/9 rose to 1.3. Perhaps much like Barry Zito is maligned in San Francisco more on account of his being of so little value vis-a-vis his contract as opposed to truly terrible performance, Burnett is viewed similarly in the Bronx.

For the A’s, one thing they have to think of is, is this an Ed Whitson or for a more-recent vintage comparison Carl Pavano-like crumbling to the pressures of playing for the Yankees. It could very well be that is the case. It also could be the case that Burnett simply is getting old and is in his decline phase. If this were a one-year $5-6M commitment, I would support Oakland getting Burnett. As Dierkes notes, the A’s main innings-eating guy is presently Colon. Burnett for all of his faults, has put together 377 innings the past two years and that is valuable for the A’s who need someone to ensure that the young pitchers aren’t quickly forced into the rotation. But with the deal spanning two years, then Burnett in my mind becomes an albatross. Though there is a validity to the thought process ultimately I think the reason there’ve been no Burnett to the A’s rumors is because simply put, Billy Beane doesn’t see it as a worthwhile move.

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