The outlook for AJ Burnett in 2012 – A return to the Marlins?

15 Jan

In light of recent moves made by Brian Cashman, the Yankees 2012 pitching rotation has been drastically overhauled to an extreme no one likely considered possible this late in the winter. While those moves will almost assuredly strengthen the Yankees not only this year but for the coming three or four seasons, there is one major question – What happens to AJ Burnett? Burnett’s tenure in New York has not been what was imagined when he was signed to a mega-deal that now looks foolish. While hindsight is 20/20, at the time the signing did make sense and AJ did help the Yankees win a World Series so it’s not a total loss. The problem is that Burnett is now an albatross in the rotation.

Burnett shows flashes of brilliance still, but he isn’t consistent enough to count on now. He can get hot and carry a team for a month going deep and piling up wins each outing, but that isn’t enough. he can win 13 games with the Yankees this year as a starter, but that is as much a product of run support as a quality effort most days. At $16.5 million this year, more is expected. The problem is figuring out what to do with him. Without Burnett, New York can trot the following rotation out:

1. Sabathia

2. Kuroda

3. Pineda

4. Nova

5. Hughes

Spot starter – Freddy Garcia

That is a strong rotation in any division, it actually may be on of the three best in baseball top to bottom. Sabathia will be Sabathia, Kuroda should adjust easily, Pineda will LOVE getting any run support and should pile up 15 wins with little problem. Nova may slip a little, but as a 4 starter a dozen wins will do. If Hughes actually did drop a little weight and comes in healthy he is an easy dozen wins as well – maybe up to 15. This is a rotation that can put up 72 wins not counting what Garcia tosses in when needed. Where does Burnett fit in?

At best, Burnett is a #4 starter in this rotation – and that may be generous. Cashman would love to move Burnett, but the contract is a black hole from which there is no escape. To deal Burnett, a portion of that deal has to be eaten, maybe as much as $6.5 million. Almost everyone needs veteran pitching, just not at that price. Ideally, Cashman wants Burnett out of the AL so a deal to Toronto or Baltimore who would love him is not going to happen. Seattle is not interested or he’d have been packaged up in the Pineda deal somehow. The Dodgers need pitching but they can’t afford him and don’t have the parts to make a deal. The Cubs could use him, but that is highly unlikely. The Marlins however make sense.

The marlins could use a veteran arm, and Burnett was arguably at his best with them. Money is flowing from every direction in Miami right now and Burnett can be afforded at a reduced rate. It would be a decent PR move which never hurts. The Yankees would likely take prospects in return with a few cups of Gatorade to be delivered later. It won’t likely happen over night, but the writing is on the wall. With the piecves in place, the Yankees don’t want to break camp having to start AJ to legitimize the contract and Burnett does not seem they type that will take mop-up duty well.

AJ Burnett to the Marlins? It’s not as crazy as it seems. The Yankees need to start clearing room for the Killer B’s, the contract needs to be move and any potential clubhouse friction needs to be nipped in the bud now before it starts. The marlins have holes and Burnett might be nice caulk. He needs a change and less pressure. it all really makes so much sense it could happen.

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