The kid in me that grew up as a die-hard Orioles fan wants to scream at the Pirates for bailing out the Yankees of a bad contract, or at least one that hasn’t worked out too well for them.
In December 2008, New York signed pitcher A.J. Burnett to a five-year deal worth $82.5 million that pays him around $16.5 millon per season. While Burnett pitched well in the first year of the deal - going 13-9 with an ERA of 4.04 in 2009 - he went 10-15, 5.26 in 2010 and 11-11, 5.15 last year. He led the American League in hit batters in 2010 and wild pitches last year. His strikeout rate has decreased while his hits allowed per nine innings has increased those past two seasons.
So he pitched rather poorly for two straight years for New York, especially at that rate of pay.
But now the Yankees seem to have a taker for Burnett in the Pittsburgh Pirates. According to this Ken Rosenthal story, New York would pay anywhere between $19-$23 million over the next two seasons to have him not pitch for them. Right now, they just want him off their team.
To me this is a great example of New York’s economic clout and the edge the Yankees have with all their revenue. They made what now looks to be a real bad signing and can afford to overcome their mistake, something almost any other team could not afford to do. In addition to that, by eating so much of his salary in a trade they can get actual prospects back from the Pirates.
So just because they can afford to do this, they can turn a poor pitcher into prospects and all it takes is money. Can’t imagine this is what Bud Selig means when he talks about competitive balance.
I guess I can see it from the Pirates’ standpoint in that they get a pitcher who seems to be much better than his last two year stats at a reduced price. But I sure would not want the Orioles to do this deal and give up actual prospects because they saved a few million on a one-time dependable pitcher.
The Yankees savings on the deal - the amount of that $33 million they won’t now have to pay Burnett the next two years if they do this deal - will be used to buy a DH or another player that may help them win more than Burnett did the last two seasons.
To me, this is one of the elements that is just not great about the sport of baseball. Not just that New York can outspend everyone, but even if they make a mistake, they simply pay someone else to rid themselves of it.